Govt to expand 'VOA' facility to boost tourism
Rendi Akhmad Witular, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

The government is planning to expand the visa-on-arrival (VOA) facility to help reverse the declining number of tourist arrivals in Indonesia, which dropped dramatically in the wake of the Oct. 1 terrorist attacks on the resort island of Bali.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla told players in the tourism sector here Monday that the government would extend the permitted length of stay from the current two weeks to between one and three months.

"A two-week stay is not enough for tourists. We will extend this period in order to attract more visitors to Bali and other tourist destinations around the country," he said.

At present, there are 34 countries that have been granted the VOA facility. The government introduced the new scheme in 2004 after it revoked the visa-free facility for nationals from 48 countries.

After last year's suicide bombings, tourist arrivals plunged to an average of 2,600 per day in January and February, and 2,950 in March, compared to 5,500 in September 2005.

Kalla, a businessman turned politician, told his audience, which included Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik, to focus on attracting more tourists from the Middle East following a decline in the number of tourists from traditional markets such as Japan and Australia.

"We should start focusing on tourists from the Arab world. We should start publishing holiday brochures in Arabic as well as teaching more tourist guides the language," he said, adding that China and Taiwan also represented prospective markets.

The government has set a target of 5.5 million foreign tourists and revenues of around US$5.4 billion this year, up from around 5 million tourists last year giving rise to revenue of some $4.9 billion.

Aside from expanding the VOA facility, the government would also provide around Rp 67 billion ($7.28 million) this year for promoting Bali abroad. The government recently announced another $5 million for this purpose.

During the meeting with Kalla, the Bali businesspeople urged the government to help settle disputes between provincial, regency and municipality administrations over the management of tourist sites.

"There are so many overlapping regulations issued by local administrations that discourage investment in the tourism sector in Bali. We would prefer the provincial administration to be given the sole responsibility to manage the industry here," said one businessman.

Kalla said the government would also expand the capacity of Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar to accommodate new generation Airbus and Boeing aircraft, which require longer runways.
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