Yohana Belinda, Jakarta – Recovery continues apace in Indonesia's tourism industry, with the number of foreign arrivals in the first five months of 2023 increasing 312 percent year-on-year.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said the progress so far suggested that the country was on track to meeting its goal.
"Our target for 2023 is 8.5 million foreign tourists. As of May we had 4.25 million foreign visitors, and we believe we can achieve this target," Sandiaga told a press briefing on Tuesday.
The COVID-19 pandemic and international travel restrictions took an enormous toll on Indonesian tourism. The country attracted an estimated 11 million foreign visitors between 2020 and 2022, compared to 16 million in 2019 alone.
Data from Statistics Indonesia (BPS) show that Malaysia contributed the largest number of inbound travelers in May with 124,617, followed by Singapore with 111,259 and then by Australia, Timor-Leste and China.
Millions of foreign travelers visit Bali annually, but the number of visitors from China remains far below what it was before the pandemic disrupted the industry.
"We hope China will [rank] second like it was in 2019, or first like was in 2018," Tjok Bagus Pemayun, head of the Bali Tourism Agency, told reporters on Tuesday.
According to him, Russian tourists also numbered among Bali's most frequent visitors before the outbreak, but the war in Ukraine was hampering a recovery of travel demand in Russia.
Meanwhile, numerous media reports and heated social media debates have emerged in recent months about foreign tourists misbehaving on the resort island.
Tjok Bagus added that the government would keep an eye out for signs of delinquent behavior among visitors to foster sustainable tourism in the province.
For this to succeed, he said, "we always communicate with the tourism agency and the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, and we will [hold] monthly follow-up meetings, because it is a form of collaboration to ensure our coordination".
More flights to Bali would be launched to attract more Chinese tourists to Indonesia, said Vinsensius Jemadu, the ministry's undersecretary for tourism products and event organizers.
Vinsensius announced that, starting on Saturday, China Southern Airlines would be offering two direct flights per week from Guangzhou to Bali, with an aim of increasing the flight's frequency to four per week by the winter. Beijing Capital Airlines and Juneyao Airlines from Shanghai would also be launching flights to Bali.
"In China, community-based tourism promotion is the most effective. Our community-centered approach has been put on display," he said
He also noted potential growth in meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) tourism, saying: "In Guangzhou and Shenzhen in April, I convinced 20,000 to 23,000 people to travel to Indonesia.
"This December, I was looking for MICE events in Jakarta, but for Bali, it was purely about tourists."
On June 1, the United Arab Emirates' flag carrier launched its debut flight to Bali operated by the largest aircraft in its fleet, the Airbus A380.
M. Kristi Endah Murni, the Transportation Ministry's director general of civil aviation, announced on Thursday that Emirates would be operating a daily A380 flight between Dubai and Bali's provincial capital Denpasar.
Because of the aircraft's larger capacity, more than 500 passengers according to Airbus, the ministry anticipates the Emirates' Bali flights could help boost visitor numbers to Bali and other regions in Indonesia.