The new Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese only took up his new seat in office on the 23rd of May, and he is already holding important trade, climate, and visa-related conversations in Indonesia.
Albanese and his delegation will meet with President Joko Widodo on Monday 6th June, at the Bogor Presidential Palace in West Java. One of the highest talking points on the agenda will be the creation of a reciprocal visa agreement for Australian and Indonesian citizens. Before the pandemic Australian travelers made up more than a quarter of Bali’s international arrivals.
Though Indonesia has opened up its visa on arrival program, including for Australian travelers, the process is costly and slow. The visa on arrival costs IDR 500,000, around AUD 48. The process for Indonesian citizens to visit Australia is rigorous and considered by some deeply offensive.
Indonesian travelers must apply for a visa before their departure and must answer interrogating questions. They must also pay AUD 140 for the process which does not guarantee a visa and is a huge financial barrier for many potential travelers to Australia.
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald the vice-chancellor of Monash University, Margaret Gardner, said that she is personally going to ensure that the visa situation is tabled during the visit. She is joining the Australian delegation to Java after recently opening a Monash University Campus in Jakarta.
The visa issue causes friction for exchange students from Australia to Indonesia and vice versa. The cost and hassle of the visa on arrival is felt most by holidaymakers and leisure travelers.
The implementation of a reciprocal visa agreement would create mutual benefits for all. Holidaymakers, ex-pats, and digital nomads from Australia may be able to stay and enjoy Bali for much longer, for free. Indonesian travelers would be able to eliminate a huge financial barrier and experience all that Australia has to offer.
It has not yet been shared publicly whether a reciprocal visa would be for tourism purposes only or whether permissions for volunteering, doing business, or to find work would be included too.
As the tourist peak season approaches in Bali, Albanese and Jokowi may not have the time to get new policies drawn up and implemented in time for the 2022 holiday season. That may be no bad thing. As Albanese starts his first term as Prime Minister he will be eager to build long-lasting relationships with world leaders. He will be visiting Bali in person in November for the G20 Summit.
Prime Minister Albanese is quoted to have said how important and symbolic it is that his first overseas visit as Australia’s leader is to Indonesia. There is certainly a special friendship between Indonesia and Australia. Bali has consistently been a top destination for Australian holidaymakers for decades. Bali’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is heavily dependent on Australian travelers.
Travelers are returning to Bali as quickly as they can, especially since Indonesia scrapped the pre-arrival PCR test for vaccinated travelers. There are now very few hurdles for Australian travelers to jump through before they can enjoy all that the Island of the Gods has to offer. A new visa program would remove any remaining friction for travelers to Bali.
Indonesia’s Tourism Minister, Sandiaga Uno, released a statement to say that Bali must increase flight schedules to be able to meet the increasing demand from Australian tourists specifically. Airlines like Batik Air, Jetstar, AirAsia, and Qantas have all shared plans to increase their flight schedules during the peak season.
They may be pleasantly surprised by the surge in demand so early in the year. Reduction of Covid-19 mandates, a visa on arrival, increased flight schedules, and plenty of deals on hotels and Bali experiences will ensure that travelers from all over the world can return to Bali without a hassle.
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