It only takes a quick look on social media to see that Indonesia’s visa-on-arrival system receives mixed reviews from travelers. For travelers from eighty-six countries, the visa on arrival offers up to 60 days in the archipelago. This makes Indonesia one of the most accessible countries for travelers on ‘weak’ passports.
However, since international borders reopened in February 2022, Indonesia has added a fee for the once-free visa on arrival. Now all travelers taking up the visa on arrival must pay the IDR 500,000 (33.30 USD) fee and pay this once again to extend by a further 30 days. For many returning travelers, especially those on family holidays from Australia, this has been an unexpected sting on their travel budget. For other travelers, however, the option to obtain a visa on arrival has been a blessing.
Bali is becoming increasingly popular with Indian tourists, and it is the visa on arrival that is helping to sway their decision-making when it comes to where to travel. In an interview with The Straits Times, a honeymoon couple from Mumbai told reporters that despite the high airfare from Mumbai to Kuala Lumpur and from Kuala Lumpur to Denpasar, the visa on arrival in Indonesia cost just a fraction of what a visa application process would cost if they wanted to go to Europe, North America, or Australia.
Anand Kumar, 34, told reporters how he and his new wife had decided on Bali as the destination for their honeymoon. He said, “We wanted something different for our honeymoon, and we had already been to Thailand. We had to decide where to go based on where we could get a visa”. Even with a layover in Malaysia, the cost of flights and visas for their trip to Bali was far more affordable than in Europe or even the Pacific Islands.
Tourism leaders in Bali are calling on the airlines and Ministry for Transport to launch direct flights from India to Denpasar. In mid-December 2022, the Regional Leadership Council (DPD) of the Association of Indonesia Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA) made statements to urge the government to establish better transport routes between Bali and India.
The chairman of ASITA, I Putu Winastra, told reports “Yes, that’s why ASITA Bali pushed for the realization of a direct flight from India to Bali. Our thinking is that the desire of the Indian people to travel is quite high. Even if there were direct flights to Bali, maybe the number of Indian tourists visiting Bali would be far greater than the current number”.
The easy visa-on-arrival setup in Indonesia, as well as affordable accommodation and experiences and the help of social media, are all helping make Bali the destination of choice for travelers from India. Between January and November 2022, Indonesia as a whole received 4,580,000 international travelers, 3.8% of which were from India.
As tourism agencies in Bali look towards creating promotions for tourists from China, the potential for the impact the Indian market can have on the island is not to be overlooked. As the Chairman of the Bali Tourism Agency explained, “even though there aren’t any direct flights from India to Bali yet…the potential is real”.
Wedding tourism and the Indian travel market is an area where Bali would be wise to focus its attention. In September 2022 Minister for Tourism and Creative Economies told the press that he wants to promote Bali as a world-class wedding destination. He said, ‘Bali, as a wedding destination, stimulates the local economy [encouraging] wedding organizers, music, accompanying bands, and many more that will benefit from the increase in the number of weddings’.
In an interview, the owner of the popular Gateway of India restaurant in Seminyak and Sanur, Vikram Kalra, told reporters that his businesses would regularly cater for huge weddings before the pandemic. Kalra said weddings with more than 300 guests would be hosted at the restaurant with ease but that during the pandemic, dozens of couples had to cancel their plans.
He confirmed that for the year ahead, bookings are increasing, and existing bookings have growing guest lists. He said, “We are starting to see some recovery in demand for weddings. I am increasingly optimistic.”
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