Kedutaan Besar Republik Indonesia
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Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia
Ambassade de la RÉpublique d'Indonésie

Media promotion key to attract foreign tourists despite free visas

International and Indonesian diplomatic communities have welcomed the government’s much-scrutinized policy to waive visa requirements for visitors from 30 countries, but suggested that it should be complemented by aggressive promotion through the media.

In South Africa, one of the countries subject to the visa-exemption policy, for example, knowledge about Indonesian tourism was largely limited to Bali, said a prominent politician from the African National Congress (ANC), the country’s governing political party.

“More awareness about the tourism products of Indonesia in South Africa is needed. Such awareness about the areas of attraction that can be visited by South Africans is important to be improved,” ANC Treasurer General Zweli Mkhize said during an interview at his office in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday.

“One that is very well-known in South Africa is the island of Bali. But I believe there are a lot more [tourism locations in Indonesia] to be discussed,” the former premier of the KwaZulu-Natal province added.

As the second-largest economy in Africa and with a GDP of US$6,139 recorded in 2014, South Africa could hold a lot of potential for Indonesian tourism, said Suprapto Martosetomo, the Indonesian ambassador to South Africa.

The number of South African tourists to Indonesia in 2013 was a mere 16,928 people, or only 0.2 percent of the total 8.8 million foreign tourists coming to Indonesia that year, however, according to data from the Indonesian Embassy in Pretoria.

The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) recorded that total foreign tourist arrivals rose by 7.19 percent to 9.44 million in 2014.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said in Jakarta on Wednesday that the new visa policies, scheduled to start in April, could attract an additional one million foreign tourist arrivals per year, moving to closer to Thailand, Malaysia and even Vietnam in the race to attract foreign tourists.

Malaysia, which waives visa requirements for 164 countries, mostly without any reciprocity basis, for example, welcomed more than 27 million foreign tourists last year.

There were huge challenges in terms of attracting South African tourists, particularly as far as geographical factors were concerned, Suprapto said. “Indonesia and South Africa have indeed inked an agreement on air travel, but it looks like it is not feasible yet for Garuda Indonesia to open a South African route,” he said at his office in Pretoria on Monday.

The ambassador was referring to the Air Transport Agreement signed by the two governments in Cape Town in 1997.

Geographical distance being the key factor was ruled out, however, given that South Africa sent more tourists to Indonesia’s neighbors such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

“South Africa clearly has many rich people who have money spare to vacation overseas. But many of them instead opt to go to Malaysia. I don’t know why exactly, but I think it’s because Malaysia has been very aggressive in promoting itself via the media, particularly via international TV channels. That is the key factor,” Suprapto said.

“The upcoming implementation of the free-visa policy I think will increase the number of South African tourists coming to Indonesia,” he said. “But it will not be effective if they don’t know where to go. That’s why I believe promotion is the key to effectively attract tourists to Indonesia. Media promotion is indeed expensive but it needs to be done,” Suprapto said, adding that he had discussed the issue with the Tourism Ministry.

Source: www.thejakartapost.com, Thursday 26 March 2015