The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has ordered his Cabinet ministers to come up with a strategy to save Indonesia’s tourism, as it is being harmed by the country’s decision to impose travel restrictions on tourists from mainland China because of the new coronavirus outbreak.
“For the tourism sector, I request contingency plans, especially for Bali and North Sulawesi, both of which are destinations that have seen many visits by tourists from mainland China,” Jokowi said in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
The President said he also hoped the relevant stakeholders could take advantage of the current situation to attract foreign tourists from other countries who were looking alternatives to going on holiday after canceling plans to visit China.
As China’s coronavirus outbreak spreads to more than 20 countries, Indonesia has imposed a travel ban to and from China starting on Wednesday, preventing people who have stayed more than two weeks in China to visit or transit in the Southeast Asian country.
Jakarta has also suspended visa-free and visa-on-arrival provisions for Chinese citizens, who made up the second-highest number of foreign tourist visits to Indonesia, after Malaysia, last year.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Wishnutama Kusubandio concurred that such a travel ban would create a big challenge for the country’s tourism as the number of Chinese tourists visiting the archipelago hit nearly 2 million last year.
Statistics Indonesia revealed that from January to November 2019, 1.9 million Chinese tourists visited Indonesia, representing nearly 13 percent of overall foreign tourist visits.
Such travel restrictions mean that it will be harder for Jokowi’s administration to achieve the target of attracting 10 million Chinese tourists annually to Indonesia.
“Once again, our main priority is protecting the health of the Indonesian people. That is the main thing to consider at the moment,” said Wishnutama.
The coronavirus outbreak, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has affected Bali’s tourism, with the Bali chapter of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies saying that thousands of Chinese tourists have canceled their trips to the resort island.
According to agency data, at least 15,000 Chinese tourists have had their trips to the island canceled amid the virus outbreak.
The Indonesian Tour Guide Association in Bali has also reported that some 1,000 Chinese-speaking tour guides are currently unemployed as a result of the pandemic.
Some of the unemployed tour guides have switched to other work, such as taxi driving, and others have chosen to return to their hometowns, he said.
As of Wednesday, the coronavirus has killed 491 people in mainland China, one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines and infected tens of thousands of people globally, Johns Hopkins CSSE reported.