The Indonesian government has officially granted free entry to Australian tourists, bringing a total of 169 countries to the visa-free list.
The new rule, which came into effect on March 22, came from President Joko Widodo, who last week signed a decree waiving the visit fee for an additional 79 countries. This came as a relief to Australian travellers, as previously Indonesia’s southern neighbour had been included among other countries to be granted free entry, only to be excluded at the last minute due to tensions over the execution of members of the Bali Nine.
The visa-free policy is one of the government’s plans to attract more tourists to Indonesia, as they are aiming to attract a minimum of 20 million foreign visitors to the country over the next five years. Australians previously had to pay US$35 for a 30-day visa on arrival.
Every year, more than 1 million Australians visit Indonesia, contributing about Rp.18 trillion to the Indonesian economy. Accordingly, Australia’s Ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, considers the decision of adding Australia to the visa-free list to be “smart and timely”, expecting that it will add approximately Rp.3.4 trillion into the Indonesian economy.
Those who are still required to apply for an Indonesian visa from Australia are visitors wishing to stay for longer than 30 days or are visiting for journalistic purposes.
In 2015, Indonesia recorded a 19 percent increase in tourists from countries that received free-visa access. Countries included in the visa-free policy are Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos the Philippines, Chile, Hong Kong, Russia, South Korea, Japan, the United States, New Zealand, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates, among many others.
Indonesians travelling to Australia, however, do not yet enjoy free visas, something that Indonesia Institute president Ross Taylor said was “astonishing”. The Australian government still requires Indonesians pay AU$130 per person to apply for a tourist visa, which involves the applicant filling in approximately 15 pages of forms. “And we wonder why so many Indonesians choose to travel elsewhere on holidays,” Taylor said.