Australia And Indonesia Mend Fences Through Tourism
TravelPulse file photo
Australia has announced that it will simplify the application process and lengthen the term of visas for Indonesians. The move should bring more Indonesian travelers and investors into Australia, but it is also meant to appease the archipelago’s authorities.
Easing visa restrictions
When recently announcing changes to its visa policy, Jakarta left Australia off of the list of free-entry countries. That was quite notable because Aussies make up a large portion of the tourist trade, especially in popular destinations like Bali. Indonesia gets about 100,000 Australian visitors per month. Each one has to pay a $50 entry fee. Americans, Britons and New Zealanders do not have to pay anything when entering the country.
Australians flock to Bali even though they don’t qualify for free entry. Perhaps more would come if that hurdle was removed. Jakarta’s Australian visa policy could be seen as a kind of protest for the difficult process that Indonesians have to go through to get a visa to go to Australia.
More equal footing
The two countries have been becoming more friendly in recent times. Relations were strained by the highly publicized execution of Australian nationals who were convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia. Since then, however, the two neighbors have warmed to each other. Indonesia recently offered one of its islands to Australia as a place to set up a camp for migrants while their asylum applications were processed. Australian politicians and diplomats have noticeably increased the friendly rhetoric as well.
However, Indonesians are still complaining about their neighbor's visa policy. After negotiating a significant amount of red tape, they were given one-year visas. This has left many wondering whether it is worth the effort.
New visas meant to show Indonesians that they are welcome
The new visas, however, will be good for multiple entries, and they will not expire for three years. The application process will also be easier. Though it is not yet set up, a new online application system will be in place in 2017.
In addition to the diplomatic points that Australia will get by making travel easier for Indonesians, the country will now have a great opportunity to market itself to tourists from the archipelago. 150,000 Indonesians came in 2014, and they brought $600 million into Australia’s economy. Given that Indonesia's population is more than 200 million, the pool of potential visitors is quite large.
Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan spoke with media about the need to be more competitive in international markets. “Global tourism is a fiercely competitive marketplace and our research shows that, for many travelers considering Australia as a destination, visas arrangements are an important part of the decision-making process.”
An easier visa application process will not only make travel in Australia more convenient for Indonesians, it will give the country a more Indo-friendly image. If Jakarta thinks that it is on more equal footing in terms of visas and travel, it may eventually do away with its $50 levy for Australian visitors.
More by Josh Lew
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