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'Thousand Islands' seeks more Chinese tourists: Minister of Tourism

‘Thousand Islands’ seeks more Chinese tourists: Minister of Tourism

The Indonesian Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya Photo: Courtesy of the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing

Editor’s Note:

Nestled by the equator, Indonesia is dubbed the “Thousand Islands,” which offers diverse natural landscapes and ethnic cultures. Although the island topography puts it occasionally in a tsunami zone, it has not stopped world travelers’ crunching steps from exploring the world’s largest island country year-on-year.

The Global Times (GT) talks with the Indonesian Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya (Yahya) during his visit to China in December and he d with us what people need to know when traveling around Indonesia‘s islands.

GT: Bali has been a common but ordinary tourist destination for Chinese for over a decade. What are some new destinations that you would recommend them to visit?

Yahya: The first is Bali and the second destination for Chinese tourists is Manado, the capital city of the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi. Of course, Jakarta is also very popular to the Chinese people, but most of them are traveling to Jakarta for business rather than for tourism. Chinese people would love to travel to Manado because there they may find very beautiful beaches and fresh seafood at affordable prices. After Manado, I would say the Batam and Bintan Islands near Singapore.

GT: The Indonesian government has already set the goal for drawing 3.5 million Chinese tourists to Indonesia by the end of 2019. What are the new approaches that the Indonesian government is introducing in order to draw more Chinese tourists there?

Yahya: For 2018, we welcomed around 2.6 million Chinese visitors to Indonesia. Hopefully, we are growing by 20 percent. So the target is 3.5 million in 2019. We have strategies to attract Chinese tourists here.

First, we will build more direct flights between China and Indonesia.

Second, we will set Singapore as our convenient transportation hub. But you have to realize that Singapore does not have as many tourist destinations as Indonesia. So, the combination between Singapore as a tourist transportation hub and Indonesia as a tourist destination would be perfect. We are going to cooperate with travel agencies and operators in Singapore to attract Chinese tourists to visit Indonesia, especially to the Batam and Bintan Islands that are next to Singapore.

Third, we are launching a special program that makes it cheaper for Chinese tourists to travel to Indonesia. According to our promotional program, as long as you visit Batam and Bintan during weekdays, you will get discounts in many sectors. For example, if you take a ferry from Singapore to Batam, the normal price is 50 Singapore dollars ($36.4) and with our program, the price cuts to 20 Singapore dollars ($14.5), which means that there is a 60 percent discount. You may also get discounts when visiting attractions and staying in hotels. We don’t think that a 20 percent growth of Chinese tourists to Indonesia is big, because in 2017, the amount of Chinese tourists to Indonesia grew by 42 percent compared to the same period in 2016. The total annual outbound tourists from China are 130 million and we are only going to attract less than three percent. I think it will be very easy for us to attract more tourists than three percent.

GT: Many Chinese tourists are concerned about their safety and security when traveling to Indonesia. How do you reassure them about these concerns?

Yahya: According to a US Gallup poll on residents’ sense of security in 2018, Indonesia is one of the safest countries in the world. So, I think the result of this survey can answer your questions related to safety and security issues in Indonesia. There is no big issue especially for Chinese tourists who visit Indonesia.

GT: Tell us about the latest visa policies targeting Chinese tourists to Indonesia

Yahya: Since 2016, we have launched a visa-free policy for tourists from 169 countries, including China. They can travel to Indonesia for 30 days visa-free. The result has been very good. The growth of tourism is around 20 percent.