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Time to Abolish Indonesia's Visa-on-Arrival Policy?

Gede Wiratha: Bali and Indonesia Would Benefit if Visa-on-Arrival Policy Abolished and Visitors Given Free Visas.

(10/9/2010) The Indonesian government's police of extending visas-on-arrivals (VOA) to the citizens of a number of countries must be ended in favor of a visa-free policy. The reasons for introducing the VOA policy several years ago are no longer relevant and counter-productive to the interests of the Nation.

That's the opinion of I Gde Wiratha, the former chairman of the Bali Chamber of Commerce (KADINDA), former Bali chairman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI-Bali) and the owner of several tourism enterprises in Bali.

Quoted in the Bali Post, Wiratha said the VOA policy introduced during the reign of Yusril Ihza Mahaendra as the Minister of Law and Human Rights and was seen at the time as an effective way of improving State security and rooting out illegal working aliens posing as tourists.

Wiratha asked what was the actual the effectiveness of the VOA policy? Responding to hos own rhetorical question, Wiratha said: "The terrorist acts in this country were not committed by foreign nationals, but by our own citizens. The Americans don't want to bomb Bali, neither do the English or the Australia have such intentions. It can be said that the foreigners who visit to Bali love Bali and Indonesia because of our diversity of culture and its natural beauty."

Wiratha says the current VOA policy is impeding national tourism; the policy wastes time and makes people tired. "Just imagine, visitors come from Europe after a flight of 8 hours; wait in line at immigration for two hours; wait again for a bus; and then encounter traffic jams and other inconveniences. This is so tiring," explained Wiratha, who also owns Bounty Cruise.

Seen from a Balinese perspective, Wiratha told the Bali Post, the VOA policy has brought negative results and damaged the island's image. Adding, "I think the government of SBY has yet to provide a meaningful stimulus for our tourism industry." For this reason, I call on all components of the Balinese people and the rest of the country to support a visa-free policy. "Such a move would not only benefit Bali, but all of Indonesia because of the jump in tourism arrivals that would result. The tourists would not only flow to Bali. The tourists would also know the rest of Indonesia Papua, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and other destinations. Let's be visa free and give visas for six months," Wiratha suggested.

He believes such a change in policy would automatically benefit the economy and create new employment opportunities. "Hopefully Pak SBY (the President) can consider a visa-free policy," he said.

The tourism leader also dismissed any suggestion that abolishing the VOA would represent a significant loss in State revenues. He said he calculates the revenues produced by VOA at around Rp. 35 billion (US$3.9 million), all of which is remitted to Jakarta. Wiratha said such revenues were little more than the income of an average hotel in Kuta, underlining that the damage done by the VOA policy to date far outweighs any financial benefit derived from the policy.