Jakarta – Foreign tourist arrivals plummeted in Indonesia in March as the country's tourism industry started feeling the pinch of the coronavirus crisis, the central statistics agency reported on Monday.
The agency (BPS) said fewer than 471,000 tourists visited Indonesia in March, down 64 percent from the same month a year ago.
The number of Chinese tourists – who normally make up the second-largest group of foreign travelers in Indonesia after the Malaysians – fell 97 percent to just over 196,000 in March.
The number of Australian tourists to Indonesia also dropped by more than 56 percent to 249,000, the agency said.
Indonesia recorded a total of 2.6 million foreign visitors in the first three months of this year, down 31 percent from 3.8 million during the same period a year ago.
Indonesia announces its first two cases of Covid-19 on March 2, just over two weeks after the country closed its borders to travelers from China.
The government has since extended the travel ban to travelers coming from Covid-19 epicenters Italy, Iran and South Korea and stopped issuing visas on arrival.
Travels to Indonesia from those countries are only possible with special permits from the government.
The Tourism Ministry had said the massive drop in tourist arrivals from China, which accounted for 13 percent of total foreign visitor arrivals last year, would lose Indonesia up to $2.8 billion in revenue.
The tourism sector was last year one of the top contributors to Indonesia's foreign exchange income along with coal and palm oil exports.
Hotels are struggling
Since the tourists are gone, hotels suffer. Occupancy rate dropped to just 32 percent in March, the lowest in almost five years, BPS data showed.
Hotels in North Sulawesi, a favorite destination for Chinese visitors, were hit the hardest. Occupancy rate in the province dropped by almost a third in March to just over 25 percent.
Hotels in West Nusa Tenggara fared even worse. Only one out of five hotel rooms was occupied last month.
In Bali, Indonesia's most popular tourist destination, the hotel occupancy rate dropped to 25 percent.
Only hotels in South Sumatra, East Kalimantan and West Papua were able to maintain occupancy rates of above 35 percent.