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The Slow Boat from China

Why Indonesia Doesn't Get its Share of the Mainland Chinese Market.

(5/9/2005) According to an article in the Saturday, May 5, 2005 edition of Bisnis Indonesia, the number of Chinese traveling abroad increased 42% in 2004, as compared from just one year before. Of the resulting 29 million Chinese taking foreign holidays in 2004, Indonesia attracted some 80,000 Chinese visitors – a miniscule share, with Bali netting only 29,651 Chinese visitors for 2004. Meanwhile, China's offshore neighbor of Taiwan produced a whopping 183,624 visitors to Bali in 2004.

Why Mainland Chinese Don't Visit Bali

While Indonesia’s ASEAN neighbors are doing a bumper trade in Mainland Chinese (PRC) visitors who represent about 20% of all tourist arrivals to ASEAN, this market accounts for a tiny 2% of visitors to Bali.

According to tourism industry observers, the two greatest impediments stopping Indonesia from getting its share of the Chinese travel market are complicated visa procedures and a lack of tourism promotion to that market.

Currently, Chinese nationals wishing to visit Indonesia must pay substantial fees and apply for a visa through the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing. Fortunately, the problem of a single visa issuing office for such a large country has been partially remedied with the opening of a second visa issuing office at the Indonesian Consulate in Guangzhou on April 21, 2005.

Recommendations from the Department of Culture and Tourism to increase the inflow of Chinese tourists to Indonesia by granting visas from the Indonesian Consulates in Shanghai and Kunming are still under review together with the call for including China on the list of countries able to purchase a visa on arrival when landing in Indonesia.

Clearly, adding the PRC to the list of countries issued visas upon arrival in Indonesia would fundamentally change the basic market mix of inbound tourism arrivals.

Addressing the issue of a lack of tourism promotion, Yanti Sukamdani Harjoprakoso, the Chairperson of the Chinese Market Focus Group at the Department of Culture and Tourism, said any desire to increase the size of the Chinese inbound market has to be combined with a commitment to spend more promotional funds. According to Yanti, who also heads the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), in order to achieve a quarter of a million Chinese tourist arrivals she estimates the Government must be prepared to spend at least US$1.5 million on tourism promotion to the Chinese market.