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We Get Mail: Fan Mail & Visa Criticism

Readers Write to Wish Bali Update Best and Take Issue with the Tourism Board's Mr. Setyanto Comment in The Local Press.

(3/31/2002) No Visa Fee

Mike & Shelagh Thompson , of New Zealand wrote to tell us what they thought about the proposed visa fee for Indonesia:

Please NO visa fee! We have been holidaying in BALI now for 12 years, sometimes twice a year. If a visa fee comes into force we will have to seriously think about our holidays in the future. Over the years we have recommended many friends and clients to holiday in Bali and I think this will make them think again.

Taking Issue with Pak Setyanto

Several readers wrote to take strong issue with the comments of Setyanto P. Santosa the Chief of the Indonesian Tourism and Culture Development Board, made to the local press and quoted in last week's Bali Update. Peter Wrycza, , a resident in Bali wrote:

Mr. Setyanto's statement "actually, if tourists are charged a visa fee of $50 that is not a problem, providing the quality of the service they receive is excellent" shows that the tourism official knows nothing of the tourist industry and is not listening to the feedback he is receiving from it. A visa on arrival charge added to the departure tax have nothing to do with the quality of service provided, and everything to do with a disregard for the effects on ordinary Balinese families already struggling with the current downturn.

Meanwhile, Dr. Daniel R. Parsignault, Ph.D. , also wrote to take spirited issue with Mr. Setyanto;

Good work, Mr. Setyanto P. Santosa! The fact that these two measures, a $50.00/visa and a shortening of its validity period from 60 days to 15 - 30 days, are even discussed in the media indicates that these "rumors" have already been seriously considered by the Board.

These measures show a TOTAL disconnect from reality on the part of the people in charge of the so-called Tourism and Culture Development Board. A more appropriate name for this Board should be the Tourism and Culture Wrecking Board.

What better way to discourage tourism to Indonesia in general, and to Bali in particular, than to charge a fee for entering the place, and reducing the amount of time a tourist can stay?

Obviously, an additional $50.00/visa may sound trivial for a single person, but for families, the additional $200 - $300 is considerable, and as such, becomes a real value point in determining whether or not to include Indonesia on one's vacation itinerary.

The shortening of the period of stay is even more serious. Bali is the main destination for foreign tourists, but Indonesia, as a whole, is one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world. Indonesia has tried for years to develop its tourist industry outside Bali, all over its huge territory, from Sumatra to Papua. A sixty-day visa is already short for anybody wanting to visit some of Indonesia's treasures and experience its cultural and ethnic diversity . Doing so in any meaningful way requires time, and cutting so drastically the time available would obviously stop a large number of would-be visitors.

The visa situation in Burma was for many years the single greatest barrier to its tourism development. It went from a ridiculous 24-hour stay visa, to a one-week visa, and to the present month-long visa. The obvious result is a flourishing tourist industry, in spite of a deplorable type of government. The remarkable beauty, history and culture of Burma are now available for everybody to see and enjoy. Such an obvious policy is apparently not so obvious to Mr. Santosa. Maybe he should start traveling abroad more often, and see how the other half of the world lives, and welcomes its foreign visitors.

Finally, what does Mr. Santosa mean by his statement, "actually, if tourists are charged a visa fee of $50 that is not a problem, providing the quality of the service they receive is excellent?" All I request from the Indonesian Immigration Office at the border is an agent (smiling, if possible) to stamp my passport, at the same time refraining from asking me if I have a "present" for him. The rest of the services I require come from private enterprises, and I fail to see how an additional $50.00/visa going in the Government's pocket will somehow improve the quality of their services.

One More Comment for Mr. Steyanto

Clive Matthews , of Australia joins the almost unanimous flood of letters giving "thumbs down" to the proposed changes in the visa policy.

I have had the pleasure of visiting Bali on 6 occasions so far and have already booked my 7th trip. Each time my stay has increased to the extent that this visit will be for 26 days and at the same time will be taking my family (adult) and grandchildren with us.

I am dismayed that Mr. Setyanto is even contemplating shortening the length of stay and imposing a tourist tax because of the potential damage rash decisions can do. Bear in mind that we have already seen departure tax double over the past 2 years and that places like Singapore, Malaysia Vietnam and Thailand not only do not restrict tourism, but also openly welcome tourists and now have cheaper hotels. Balinese hotels are now becoming quite expensive.

The danger I foresee is that Indonesia will price itself out of the market and it will find it very hard to regain its place at the top where it should be. I will always regard Bali as a second home and could spend 3 months at a time when I retire - to that end I now study Indonesian at night school, which is a major task as I have not studied for at least 35 years. If prices keep increasing and further taxes are imposed then my family and I will certainly be reviewing our future holiday and semi-residential plans.

May I suggest that all such responses be forwarded to Mr. Setyanto so he can see for himself that there a lot of opposition to the proposals based upon sound reasoning.

A Belated Birthday Bouquet

Mr. Anak Agung Gede Rai , a Balinese reader and luminary in local tourism circles, sent the following belated birthday bouquet to Bali Update:

Dear Brother Jack, I am extremely sorry for not remembering the birthday of our beloved BALI UPDATE.

However, although belated, please accept my sincere good wishes on the 4th Anniversary of Bali Update that I adore so much.

Long Live Bali Update!!!

A Singapore Smile

Mr. Jimmy Sim , of P&O Travel in Singapore wrote:

I would like to congratulate you and your team on the great work and effort you all have spent in putting together the news from beautiful island of Bali. Each time I read your newsletter, makes me want to get on the next flight out and take a vacation there again. Keep on sending these great updates and news. Perhaps, you could include which are the hoteliers that have moved or just arrived in Bali. That's useful too for tour operators like us.


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