It has been a big week for tourism policy announcements in Bali. From a ban on all activities on the island’s mountains to a comprehensive list of do’s and don’t for visitors, there’s a lot to take in.
Amongst all the changes, crackdowns, and amendments, Bali’s Governor Koster has also announced an urgent review into the visa-on-arrival for tourists.
Indonesia’s visa on arrival is one of the most accessible visa categories in the world. Available to citizens from 92 counties around the globe for IDR 500,000 (USD 34), the visa on arrival allows tourists to explore the best of Indonesia for up to 30 days at a time.
The visa on arrival can also be extended one time for an additional 30 days, and the Department of Immigration recently launched an online facility where tourists can both apply for and extend their visa on arrival from their smartphones or laptops.
While many tourists and tourism businesses view the visa-on-arrival program in Indonesia as a positive policy, the Governor of Bali has announced that he wants to see an urgent review of the visa category in light of a recent rise in badly behaved tourists on the island.
Addressing a press conference of policymakers, regency leaders, and reporters this week, Governor Koster said ‘we will immediately hold a meeting with the Central Government to address and evaluate together this Visa on Arrival policy so that its implementation does not make Bali tourism seem cheap, which in turn will harm the image of Bali tourism.”
Initially, Governor Koster announced that he wanted to revoke the visa on arrival just for citizens from Russia and Ukraine following an influx of arrivals to Bali after the start of the war.
Speaking at the time of the first announcement, the Governor said, “I have written to the Minister of Law and Human Rights to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to revoke visas on arrival for Russian and Ukrainian citizens who want to go to Bali.”
The provincial government was not only concerned about the ‘quality’ of tourists from all nations arriving on the visa on arrival but also a rise in the number of foreigners working illegally on the island.
The Governor has noted on several occasions that while the visa on arrival has bought about positives for tourism in Bali, the easily accessible nature of the visa is having detrimental effects on life on the island. His statements this week appear to suggest he wants to see bigger, more all-encompassing changes.
Following a rise in unruly behavior by tourists Koster and his government subsequently launched not one but two Tourism Task Forces.
The first team is dedicated to following up on reporters of foreigners breaking the rules of their visas on the island. The second is dedicated to stamping out illegal and culturally disrespectful behavior by tourists.
But not all officials and tourism stakeholders feel that the visa on arrival alone is to blame for the issues outlined by the provincial leader.
Speaking to reporters, the Chairman of the Bali Hospitality Leaders Association, Sang Putu Eka Pertama, said, “In my opinion, don’t blame VoA. But it is in our system that must be addressed.”
Pertama noted that stronger enforcement of existing laws and regulations should be sufficient to crack down on disrespectful and illegal behavior by foreigners.
Although Governor Koster proposes changes to the visa on arrival, which could include increasing the cost of the visa or implementing greater restrictions on the policy, the Indonesian Minster for Tourism and Creative Economies has said that a full investigation will be needed.
Speaking to reporters, Minster Sandiaga Uno said, “The government is still studying and needs to hold further discussions regarding the Governor of Bali Wayan Koster’s proposal to revoke Visa on Arrival (VoA) for Russian and Ukrainian tourists because many are acting up and worrying the public.”
He added, “Revoking VoA cannot be done immediately in a selective way. At the Coordinating Meeting for Controlling Foreign Tourists…it was decided that the Governor of Bali’s proposal regarding the revocation of visit visas for Russian tourists and Ukraine need to be re-examined.”
For now, the visa on arrival is still available for the ninety-two countries as stipulated by the Indonesian Department of Immigration. Officials from the department have issued statements in the last few weeks reminding travelers that there is only one official website to apply for the e-Visa on arrival.
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