Despite a ban on foreign tourist visas being issued, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) announced on Wednesday that Indonesia had recorded 163,646 foreign tourist arrivals in May.
That is a 3.1 percent increase from 158,718 in April. May’s arrivals were dominated by visitors from Timor Leste and Malaysia.
Indonesia recorded a monthly increase in foreign tourist arrivals in May after a huge drop in the previous months but experts warn that tourism is still far from a recovery as the COVID-19 outbreak shows little sign of slowing.
Despite the slight monthly increase, May’s figures were still down 87 percent from the 1.24 million visitors welcomed in the same period last year. From January to May, Indonesia recorded just 2.9 million foreign tourist visits, a 53.56 percent drop from the same period last year.
“Decreasing [visits] were recorded at almost all points of entry,” BPS head Suhariyanto told a virtual press briefing. “Annual arrival figures at major airports, such as Ngurah Rai [in Denpasar, Bali], Soekarno-Hatta [in Tangerang, Banten] and Juanda [in Surabaya, East Java] international airports, have dropped almost 100 percent.”
Increases in arrivals were recorded at only a few points of entry, such as Batam, Riau Island, which is a major point of entry for visitors from Malaysia and Singapore.
“If we look at the overall figure, we can see that tourism is still being severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has prepared a strategy to revive tourism, but the recovery will take time because we don’t know when the COVID-19 crisis will end,” Suhariyanto said.
Tourism has been one of the hardest hit industries by the outbreak, with many tourist destinations empty since March, as countries around the world imposed travel restrictions and the implementation of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) in Indonesia forced people to stay at home.
Hotels across Indonesia have also recorded prolonged low occupancy rates. BPS’ data show the average occupancy rate of star hotels in May was only 14.45 percent.
Hotels on the resort island of Bali recorded the lowest occupancy rates of 2.07 percent in May, while occupancy rates of hotels in Yogyakarta stood at just 6.13 percent.
“A slight increase in a month is not significant and does not indicate a trend because it may be only an incidental increase,” Indonesia Tourism Intellectuals Association (ICPI) expert Azril Azahari said on Wednesday, adding that May’s figure might also include business trips.
“An increase of 20 percent sustained over several months might indicate a recovery,” he stated, adding that the recovery would depend on how the country handled the health crisis.
“As long as the virus is still present and Indonesia continues to record consistent daily increases [in new cases], it will continue to be a challenging time for tourism,” he said.
He forecast that tourism may not see a recovery until 2021.
The government issued a decree in June on health guidelines for public facilities, including hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, fitness centers, convention halls, tourist destinations and public transportation, as it gears up to reopen the economy in the so-called new normal.