Jakarta, 6/2/2020 (Antara) - Chinese tourists had been a very lucrative segment for Indonesia over the last several years, as their numbers tended to increase every year.
Indonesia had intensified tourism promotion activities and opened direct flights connecting its cities and Chinese cities to attract more tourists.
During the 2016-2017 period, Chinese tourists were recorded as the largest group of foreign travelers visiting Indonesia, outnumbering Australian visitors and those from Singapore and Malaysia.
A total of 1,385,850 Mainland Chinese tourists visited Bali in 2017 making the PRC the number one source of foreign visitors to the Island, overtaking Australia.
Indonesia received 1.97 million Chinese tourists in 2017 and the number increased to 2.7 million Chinese tourists in 2018. The Tourism Ministry had set a target to attract 3.5 million last year, but it was missed due to natural disasters and the impacts of the US-China trade war.
The situation has gone even worse since late last year due to the outbreak of coronavirus in China that claimed over 560 lives and infected some 28,000 others.
According to data of the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), Indonesia missed its target of attracting 18 million foreign tourists last year, as the number of foreign tourist arrivals in 2019 reached 16.11 million, an increase from 15.81 million in 2018. The figure of 18 million visits was a revision from the previous target of 20 million foreign tourists.
Most foreign tourists visiting Indonesia last year were from Malaysia, with 2.98 million visits, or 18.51 percent; followed by China with 2.07 million visits, or 12.86 percent; Singapore with 1.93 million visits, or 12.01 percent; Australia with 1.39 million visits, or 8.61 percent, and Timor Leste with 118 thousand visits, or 7.32 percent.
Global health emergency
The World Health Organization on January 30, 2020, declared the outbreak of novel coronavirus a global health emergency, an acknowledgement of the risk of the virus poses to countries beyond its origin in China.
The coronavirus has shredded the Indonesian governments dream of attracting at least five million Chinese tourists to Indonesia in 2020. In fact, it is only a small number of Chinese outbound tourists per year. Nearly 150 million Chinese outbound travelers were recorded in 2018, up 14.7 percent year-on-year, according to a report released by the China Tourism Academy and Ctrip last year.
As several countries have shut down borders and limited visas to Chinese travelers, the Indonesian Government has decided to suspend its visa-free policy for China visitors.
Indonesian Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly signed the regulation concerning a temporary suspension of visa-free entry, visas and residence permit for Chinese citizens that will take effect from February 5 to 29, 2020, and it would be re-evaluated.
"Based on WHO's announcement, the coronavirus has become an international outbreak. Therefore, Indonesia has placed restrictions mainly on the movement of Chinese nationals and other nationals who have visited China within 14 days before entering Indonesia," Arvin Gumilang, spokesman of the Directorate General of Immigration, said on February 6.
The 14-day entry ban specified in the regulation is determined based on the coronavirus incubation period.
In addition to this, Indonesia's airport operator PT Angkasa Pura (AP) I temporarily suspended 158 flights from and to China from February 5, 2020, as per the government's policy to thwart the entry of coronavirus into the country.
"In accordance with the President's directives on the temporary suspension of flights to and from China since this February 5, several Angkasa Pura I airports have temporarily closed flight operations to and from China as a matter of fact since the end of January," President Director of PT Angkasa Pura I Faik Fahmi noted in a statement here February 6, 2020.
Angkasa Pura I's airports that serve flights, with routes to and from China in 2020 include the I Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali; Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manador, North Sulawesi Province, and Adi Soemarmo Airport in Solo, Central Java.
The authorities of I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali canceled 125 flights per week from 22 destinations in China. Seven airlines serving the routes to and from China are China Eastern, with 14 flights per week; China Southern with 10 flights per week; Citilink with 11 flights per week; Lion Air with 29 flights a week; Xiamen Air with 14 flights per week; Garuda Indonesia with 22 flights per week, and Sriwijaya Air with 25 flights per week.
At the Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manado, 28 flights a week were canceled from 10 destinations. Five airlines serving the routes are China Southern, with three flights per week; Citilink with four flights per week; Lion Air with 15 flights per week; Sriwijaya Air with two flights per week, and Xiamen Air with four flights per week.
As for the Adi Soemarmo Airport in Solo, since January 30, it has temporarily suspended chartered or unscheduled flights from and to China, Kunming. On January 29, a total of 174 Chinese tourists, who had visited Solo, returned to Kunming.
The coronavirus outbreak has put a dent in Bali's tourism, as some 10 thousand Chinese tourists chose to scrap their plans to visit the island last January.
Chairperson of the Indonesian Travel Agent Association (Astindo) Elly Hutabarat confirmed on January 30, 2020, that the outbreak had a significant impact on the growth in tourism in Indonesia and the world.
"Of course, this virus will have an impact. Some 10 thousand Chinese tourists canceled trips to Bali. Moreover, trips from here to China are also canceled. We just have a travel advisory only for Wuhan. (In fact), everywhere seems to have been affected. China will also suffer," she remarked during a discussion with Travelport.
However, she is optimistic that a decline in the number of tourists would not last long, as a similar problem had cropped up in 2003.