JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia plans to waive visa requirements for tourists from China to help achieve its target of doubling tourist arrivals from the world’s second-biggest economy next year, the tourism minister said.
The Southeast Asian country aims to attract two million tourists from China in 2015, compared with 800,000 now, said Arief Yahya, who took office under President Joko Widodo’s new administration in October.
“China’s outbound tourists are 100 million and those who come to Indonesia are only 800,000. It’s even less than one percent, so to double it should actually be very easy,” Yahya told Reuters on Wednesday.
Yahya, a former chief executive of Indonesia’s biggest telecommunication operator PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia Tbk, said Indonesia wanted to offer visa-free travel but hoped China would reciprocate.
Nearly 7.8 million foreign tourists visited Indonesia from January to October this year, an 8.7 percent increase from the corresponding period a year earlier, according to the latest official statistics.
Under a five-year plan, Indonesia hopes to boost foreign tourist arrivals to 20 million from around 9 million this year, Yahya said. The tourism sector is expected to generate 8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2019, from 4 percent currently, he added.
Indonesia has been lagging behind regional rivals such as Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore in attracting tourists, but Yahya said he hopes to change that by stepping up marketing via the Internet and improving travel services.
The country needs an additional 120,000 hotel rooms, 15,000 restaurants, 10,000 travel agencies and other facilities, according to the tourism ministry. The tourism sector attracted nearly $467 million in investment this year, of which 90 percent was from foreign investors.
Foreign companies that have recently expanded in Indonesia include hotel chain operators Accor Group, Aston Group and Malaysia’s Tune Hotels.
Editing by Jacqueline Wong