DUBAI (Reuters) - The number of Australian visitors to Indonesia rose in March and the island nation’s tourism industry has seen no impact from a Boycott Bali protest over death sentences passed on two Australian drug traffickers, a government official said.
Nia Niscaya, director of international tourism promotion at the Minister of Tourism, said however that figures for April, the month when the executions of a total of eight drug traffickers were actually carried out, were not yet available.
Death penalty opponents launched the Boycott Bali protests after the traffickers, arrested in Bali, were condemned.
Visitors from Australia, with has deep commercial and political ties with its neighbor, rose 6.6 percent to 84,400 in March, according to data from Indonesia’s tourism ministry.
This increase showed the boycott had had no impact on Indonesia’s tourism sector, Niscaya told Reuters. Figures for April were not yet available, she said.
Australia is Indonesia’s third biggest source market for foreign visitors, behind Singapore and Malaysia.
Tourism represents a small, but growing part of Indonesia’s economy, generating receipts of about $9.85 billion a year, while total gross domestic product was $868.3 billion in 2013, according to World Bank data.
Indonesia aims to attract 20 million tourists annually within five years, which would be roughly double 2014’s total of 9.44 million, Niscaya said.
The country’s target for 2015 is 12 million visitors, which would be a 27 percent annual increase, steeper than 2014’s rise of 7.2 percent.
As part of this push, the country will extend visa-free travel to another 30 countries by the end of May, up from 15 at present, Niscaya said. These will include states from Europe, the Middle East and Asia, she said, predicting this would help attract an extra 500,000 visitors annually.
Niscaya said the government had raised its annual tourism marketing budget to 1.3 trillion rupiahs, from 300 billion rupiahs previously, to help achieve its aims, while additional flight routes from the likes of Dubai-based airline Emirates would also swell visitor numbers.
“Not only from the Middle East but all over the world because Dubai is a hub,” said Niscaya.
About 2.3 million tourists visited Indonesia in the first quarter of 2015, up 3.5 percent year-on-year, ministry data showed.
Reporting by Matt Smith