DENPASAR, Indonesia - The Bali provincial administration is expecting to attract 4 million foreign tourists this year and anticipates considerable growth in the number of foreign visitors following the government's policy to waive visa requirements for visitors from Australia, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
The provincial administration is upbeat that the number of foreign visitors to Bali will grow significantly this year. The target is an increase of 500,000 visitors, compared to last year's projection of 3.5 million visitors.
Bali Tourism Office head AA Gede Yuniartha Putra said his optimism was backed by several factors, including the new visa policy for tourists from the five mentioned countries.
So far, added Putra, the number of foreign visitors to Bali had shown significant increases, although last year was a political year for Indonesia, when the legislative and presidential elections were held.
From January to November 2014, as many as 3,418,652 foreign tourists visited Bali, a rise of 14.74 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2013.
For the remaining month of December, his office estimated 340,000 foreign tourist arrivals, so the total number of foreign tourist arrivals entering Bali was around 3.7 million people, or 106 per cent of the year's target.
"Based on last year's achievements and the new visa policy for those five countries, each of which contributes a large number of tourists, we are confident about setting a target of 4 million foreign tourist arrivals this year. Of course we hope that the state of internal and external security is favourable," said Putra.
The five countries provided with free visas, he added, were among the 10 countries that sent the most number of tourists to Bali.
According to data in 2014 (from January to November), Australia ranked top in the number of tourist arrivals to Bali with 893,873 tourists, followed by China with 539,252, Japan with 195,444, South Korea with 131,975 and Russia with 66,140.
Putra said the target was specifically for the number of tourists who entered or left the country through Bali via air and seaports. Beyond that, he added, quite a lot of foreign tourists also arrived in Bali through other regions, such as Jakarta.
Putra said that to reach the target, internal elements, such as security, cleanliness, traffic congestion and services in a tourist destination were also essential.
In the past several years, he said, the number of tourist arrivals to Bali had further increased, thus indicating the increasing trust of the international community in Bali.
From the external viewpoint, Putra believes that improving global economic conditions, following the financial crisis affecting a number of countries, would also spur global movement and tourism.
The head of the Bali chapter of the Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (Asita), Ketut Ardana, expressed optimism about tourists' interest in visiting Bali, an island famous for its natural and cultural attractions.
However, he said, there should be improvements in various supporting infrastructure and facilities on the island.
"Tourists only stay in the southern part of Bali. Apart from a greater variety of tourist sites, there should also be an equal distribution of income from the tourism sector to every layer of the community in Bali," he said.
The same view was expressed by a senior tour operator in Bali, Bagus Sudibya, who emphasised the need to attract quality tourists, or visitors who spend a lot and stay longer in Bali.