Indonesia opens its doors to 169 countries

01 Mar 18
Madrid (Spain)

Indonesia has recently become the 7th country in the world, the 4th in the Asia-Pacific but the 1st in South East Asia in international openness according to UNWTO’s openness data for 2016. This came as a result of a Presidential Decree of March 2016 which granted visa exemption to 169 countries and special administration regions the world over. The policy shift in visa facilitation is intended to increase the number of international tourists to 20 million in 2019 which is expected to generate USD 24 billion thereby making tourism its number 1 export earner.

This change in the government’s visa regime was prompted by 1 main factor: the findings of a joint research UNWTO and WTTC presented to the 4th T20 Ministers’ meeting in 2012 which concluded that policy changes involving visa facilitation brought about growth in tourist arrivals ranging between 5% and 25% annually on average over a period of 3 years.

Indonesia’s visa relaxation also stems from the fact that since 2014, the government has prioritized tourism as a key economic sector to drive the overall national development of the country. This is because tourism in recent years increased its contribution to the national income from 10% to 17% and rose in ranking from the 5th position to become the 4th biggest foreign exchange earner after oil and gas, coal and palm oil. For the 20 million international tourists forecast for 2019, Indonesia is expecting to cash in USD 24 billion in international tourist receipts.

UNWTO undertook a study in April 2017 to provide a preliminary analysis of the first year of the application of Indonesia’s visa free policy in the form of desk research and stakeholder consultations.

One important finding of this preliminary study is the fact that the visa free policy has indeed been positive for business in Indonesia, and this is supported by impressive growth figures and overall industry optimism.

However, as this 169 country visa free policy became fully operational only a year ago, there is insufficient data to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the visa policy and to determine fully if there is a causal relationship between the introduction of visa-free travel and the nearly 20% year on year growth. Nonetheless, early indications suggest that the policy is indeed increasing visitor demand to Indonesia.

Research over the years has underlined the importance of visa free policies to successful national tourism development strategies. However, a visa free policy in isolation is no guarantee for tourism growth. Rather, such policies should be seen as part of an overall national effort.

Related links:

UNWTO's work in the field of Travel Facilitation