Tourism in Indonesia is an important component of the Indonesian economy as well as a significant source of its foreign exchange revenues. In 2009, the number of international tourists arriving in Indonesia climbed 3.6% to 6.45 million arrivals from 6.43 million in 2008. The subsequent economical impact of this tourist influx in 2009 saw $6.3 billion US dollars spent by international tourists in Indonesia, at an average spend of US$129.57 per day and US$995.93 per visit. Whilst the number of arrivals increased in 2009 the total spent per visitor decreased leading to a revenues shortfall of US$1.07 billion when compared to the previous year.
In late January 2011 Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik announced that “Wonderful Indonesia” would replace the previous “Visit Indonesia Year” branding used by the nations official tourism promotional campaigns. The minister announced that in 2010, foreign tourists visiting Indonesia touched 7 million and made predictions of 7.7 million in 2011. He was reported as describing the new branding as reflecting “the country’s beautiful nature, unique culture, varied food, hospitable people and price competitiveness. “We expect each tourist will spend around US$1,100 and with an optimistic target of 7.7 million arrivals, we will get $8.3 billion,” from this. The Culture and Tourism Minister added that 50 percent of the revenue would be generated from about 600 meetings, conventions and exhibitions that were expected to take place in various places throughout the country 2011. He further added in the announcements of January 2011 that his ministry would be promoting the country’s attractions under the eco-cultural banner.
Both nature and culture are major components of Indonesian tourism. The natural heritage can boast a unique combination of a tropical climate, a vast archipelago of 17,508 islands, 6,000 of them being inhabited, the third longest shoreline in the world (54,716 km) after Canada and the European Union. It is the worlds largest and most populous country situated only on islands. The beaches in Bali, diving sites in Bunaken, Mount Rinjani in Lombok and various national parks in Sumatra are just a few examples of popular scenic destinations. These natural attractions are complemented by a rich cultural heritage that reflects Indonesia’s dynamic history and ethnic diversity. One fact that exemplifies this richness is that 719 living languages are used across the archipelago. The ancient Prambanan and Borobudur temples, Toraja, Yogyakarta, Minangkabau, and of course Bali, with its many Hindu festivities, are some of the popular destinations for cultural tourism.
Tourism in Indonesia is currently overseen by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. International tourism campaigns have been focusing largely on its tropical destinations with white sand beaches, blue sky, and cultural attractions. Beach resorts and hotels have been developed in some popular tourist destinations, especially Bali island as the primary destination. At the same time, the integration of cultural affairs and tourism under the scope of the same ministry shows that cultural tourism is considered an integral part of Indonesia’s tourism industry, and conversely, that tourism is used to promote and preserve the cultural heritage.
Some of the challenges Indonesia’s tourism industry has to face include the development of infrastructure to support tourism across the sprawling archipelago, incursions of the industry into local traditions (adat), and the impact of tourism development on the life of local people. In 2010, based on World Economic Forum survey, Indonesia got Tourism Competiveness Index at number 74 (up from number 81) from 139 countries.The tourism industry in Indonesia has also faced setbacks due to problems related to security. Since 2002, warnings have been issued by some countries over terrorist threats and ethnic as well as religious conflicts in some areas, significantly reducing the number of foreign visitors for a few years. However, the number of international tourists has bounced back positively since 2007, and reached a new record in 2008
Indonesia has a well-preserved, natural ecosystem with rainforests that stretch over about 57% of Indonesia’s land (225 million acres), approximately 2% of which are mangrove systems. One reason why the natural ecosystem in Indonesia is still well-preserved is because only 6,000 islands out of 17,000 are permanently inhabited. Forests on Sumatra and Java are examples of popular tourist destinations. Moreover, Indonesia has one of longest coastlines in the world, measuring 54,716 kilometres (33,999 mi), with a number of beaches and island resorts, such as those in southern Bali, Lombok, Bintan and Nias Island. However, most of the well-preserved beaches are those in more isolated and less developed areas, such as Karimunjawa, the Togian Islands, and the Banda Islands.
With more than 17,508 islands, Indonesia presents ample diving opportunities. Bunaken National Marine Park, at the northern tip of Sulawesi, claims to have seven times more genera of coral than Hawaii, and has more than 70% of all the known fish species of the Indo-Western Pacific. Moreover, there are over 3,500 species living in Indonesian waters, including sharks, dolphins, manta rays, turtles, morays, cuttlefish, octopus and scorpionfish, compared to 1,500 on the Great Barrier Reef and 600 in the Red Sea. Tulamben Bay in Bali boasts the wreck of the 120 metres (390 ft) U.S. Army commissioned transport vessel, the Liberty. Other popular dive sites on Bali are at Candidasa and Menjangan. Across the Badung Strait from Bali, there are several popular dive sites on Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. Lombok’s three Gilis (Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan) are popular as is Bangka. Some of the most famous diving sites in Indonesia are also the most difficult to reach, with places like Biak off the coast of Papua and the Alor Archipelago among the popular, more remote, destinations for divers.
 Surf breaks
Surfing is also a popular water activity in Indonesia and the sites are recognised as world class. The well-known spots are mostly located on the southern, Indian Ocean side of Indonesia, for example, the large oceanic surf breaks on southern Java. However, the north coast does not receive the same surf from the Java Sea. Surf breaks can be found all the way along Sumatra, down to Nusa Tenggara, including Aceh, Bali, Banten, Java, Lombok, the Mentawai Islands, and Sumbawa. On Bali, there are about 33 surf spots, from West Bali to East Bali including four on the offshore island of Nusa Lembongan. Sumatra is the second island with the most number of surf spots, with 18 altogether. The common time for surfing is around May to September with the trade winds blowing from east to south-east. From October to April, winds tend to come from the west to north-west, so the east coast breaks get the offshore winds.
Two well-known surf breaks in Indonesia are the G-Land in the Bay of Grajagan, East Java, and Lagundri Bay at the southern end of Nias island. G-Land was first identified in 1972, when a surfer saw the break from the window of a plane. Since 6 to 8 foot (Hawaiian scale) waves were discovered by surfers at Lagundri Bay in 1975, the island has become famous for surfing worldwide.
There are 50 national parks in Indonesia, of which six are World Heritage listed. The largest national parks in Sumatra are the 9,500-square-kilometre (3,700 sq mi) Gunung Leuser National Park, the 13,750-square-kilometre (5,310 sq mi) Kerinci Seblat National Park and the 3,568-square-kilometre (1,378 sq mi) Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, all three recognised as Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Other national parks on the list are Lorentz National Park in Papua, Komodo National Park in the Lesser Sunda Islands, and Ujung Kulon National Park in the west of Java.
To be noticed, different national parks offer different biodiversity, as the natural habitat in Indonesia is divided into two areas by the Wallace line. The Wallacea biogeographical distinction means the western part of Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan) have the same flora and fauna characteristics as the Asian continent, whilst the remaining eastern part of Indonesia has similarity with the Australian continent.
Many native species such as Sumatran elephants, Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros and Orangutans are listed as endangered or critically endangered, and the remaining populations are found in national parks and other conservation areas. Orangutans can be visited in the Bukit Lawang conservation area. The world’s largest flower, rafflesia arnoldi, and the tallest flower, titan arum, can be found in Sumatra.
The east side of the Wallacea line offers the most remarkable, rarest, and exotic animals on earth. Birds of Paradise, locally known as cenderawaish, are plumed birds that can be found among other fauna in Papua New Guinea. The largest bird in Papua is the flightless cassowary. One species of lizard, the Komodo dragon can easily be found on Komodo, located in the Nusa Tenggara lesser islands region. Besides Komodo island, this endangered species can also be found on the islands of Rintja, Padar and Flores.
Hiking and camping in the mountains are popular adventure activities. Some mountains contain ridge rivers, offering rafting activity. Though volcanic mountains can be dangerous, they have become major tourist destinations. Several tourists have died on the slopes of Mount Rinjani, Indonesia’s second highest volcano and a popular destination for climbers visiting Lombok in eastern Indonesia. Popular active volcanoes are the 2,329-metre (7,641 ft) high Mount Bromo in the East Java province with its little desert, the upturned boat shaped Tangkuban Perahu on the outskirts of Bandung, the most active volcano in Java, Mount Merapi and the legendary Krakatau with its new caldera known as anak krakatau (the child of Krakatau). Puncak Jaya in the Lorentz National Park, the highest mountain in Indonesia and one of the few mountains with ice caps at the (tropical) equator offers the opportunity of rock climbing. In Sumatra, there are the remains of a supervolcano eruption that have created the landscape of Lake Toba close to Medan in North Sumatra.
Indonesia consists of an entire 300 ethnic groups, spread over a 1.8 million km² area of 6,000 inhabited islands. This creates a cultural diversity, further compounded by Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and European colonialist influences.
From the 3rd century until the 13th century, Hinduism and Buddhism shaped the culture of Indonesia. The best-preserved Buddhist shrine, which was built during the Sailendra dynasty in the 8th century, is Borobudur temple in Central Java. A few kilometers to the southeast is the Prambanan complex, a Hindu temple built during the second Mataram dynasty. Both the Borobudur and the Prambanan temple compounds have been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1991. In Bali, where most Hindus live, cultural festivals are major attractions to foreign tourists.
Islam has also contributed greatly to the cultural society in Indonesia. As of 2006, 88% of Indonesia’s recorded population were Muslim. Islamic culture is prominent in Sumatra, and a few of the remaining sultanate palaces can be seen in Medan and Tanjung Pinang.
Despite foreign influences, a diverse array of indigenous traditional cultures is still evident in Indonesia. The indigenous ethnic group of Toraja in South Sulawesi, which still has strong animistic beliefs, offers a unique cultural tradition, especially during funeral rituals. The Minangkabau ethic group retain a unique matrilineal culture, despite being devoted Muslims. Other indigenous ethnic groups include the Asmat and Dani in Papua, the Dayak in Kalimantan and the Mentawai in Sumatra, where traditional rituals are still observed.
A discussion of cultural tourism is not complete without a mention of Yogyakarta, a special province in Indonesia known as centre of classical Javanese fine art and culture. The rise and fall of Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic kingdoms in Central Java has transformed Yogyakarta into a melting pot of Indonesian culture.
Metropolitan tourism activities are shopping, sightseeing in big cities, and enjoying modern amusement parks. The nation’s capital, Jakarta, offers many places for shopping. Mal Kelapa Gading (the biggest one with 130 square kilometres (50 sq mi), Plaza Senayan, Senayan City, Grand Indonesia, EX, and Plaza Indonesia are some of the shopping malls in the city. Another popular tourist activity is golfing, a favorite sport among the upper class Indonesians and foreigners. Some notable golf courses in Jakarta are the Cengkareng Golf Club, located in the airport complex, and Pondok Indah Golf and Country Club. Bali has many shopping centers, for instance, the Kuta shopping center and the Galeria Nusa Dua. Nightlife of Indonesia is also popular among foreigners, especially in the big cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Manado, Denpasar and Medan.
International tourist arrivals
Each of the larger Indonesian islands have at least one international airport. The biggest airport in Indonesia, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, is located in Tangerang Regency, Banten. There are five more international airports on Java, Adisumarmo International Airport (IATA: SOC) in Solo, Central Java, Juanda International Airport (IATA: SUB) in Surabaya, East Java, Achmad Yani International Airport (IATA: SRG) in Semarang, Central Java, Husein Sastranegara International Airport (IATA: BDO) in Bandung, West Java and Adisucipto International Airport (IATA: JOG) in Yogyakarta. On Kalimantan, there is one international airport and there are two on Sumatra. Bali, which is part of the Nusa Tenggara Islands, has the Ngurah Rai International Airport (IATA: DPS). Selaparang Airport (IATA: AMI) is located on the west coast of Lombok. The new Lombok International Airport is due to open in 2011 at which time Selaparang Airport will either close or may be retained for close regional operations such as DPS-AMI and may possibly be developed as Indonesia’s first General Aviation hub airport. There are three major tourists international airports arrivals, i.e. Ngurah Rai International Airport (IATA: DPS) with 2.54 million, Soekarno-Hatta Airport (IATA: CGK) with 1.82 million and Hang Nadim Airport (IATA: BTH), also known as Hang Nadim International Airport, in Batam, Riau Islands with 1.007 million from 7.002 million international tourists recorded as arriving in Indonesia during 2010.
On February 1, 2004, Indonesia introduced unpopular and tighter tourist visa regulations. Although tourist visas were formerly free and valid for 60 days, visitors from certain countries were now required to purchase one of two visas on arrival (VOA): a US$15 visa valid for 10 days or a US$25 visa valid for 30 days. This was heavily protested by the tourist industry, which pointed out that this cost adds up for families and 30 days is a very limited time to travel in Indonesia with a number of remote and hard to reach locations. The countries now subject to these tighter regulations include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. On July 14, 2004, the Indonesian tourism ministry granted permission for more countries to be included on the VOA list, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Russia, Egypt, Austria, Ireland, Qatar and Luxembourg. These visa were not valid for extension of conversion into any other kind of visa and the visa holder was required to leave the country on or before the 30th day of the stay.
As of January 2010 the regulations changed again and the only type of visa on arrival (VOA) available was for 30 days for a fee of US$25.00. This new version of the VOA may be extended later at a local Immigration office for a further once only period of up to 30 days for a fee of Rp 250,000. The previous 7 day visa on arrival was no longer available from January 2010
Currently Indonesia allows visa free entry to the citizens of 12 countries. The nationals of these countries who are going on holiday, attending conventions or engaging in similar such activities are allowed to stay in Indonesia of up to 30 days without visa. This type of visa cannot be extended, transferred or converted to any other kind of visa; nor can it be used as a working permit. Those visitors eligible under the visa waiver program have a visa issued at the Indonesian border checkpoints with that issuance subject to the discretion of the visa officer. The visa is not for employment and is not extendable. The citizens of the following countries are eligible: Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Ecuador, Hong Kong SAR (Special Administrative Region), Macau SAR (Special Administrative Region), Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam. These visas cannot be extended or converted to another type of visa.
The citizens of 17 countries need to obtain an approval from the immigration services head office the Direktorat Jenderal Imigrasi in Jakarta. The 17 countries are: Afghanistan, Israel, Albania, North Korea, Angola, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cameroon, Somalia, Cuba, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Tonga, Iraq and those effected must have a sponsor in Indonesia either a personal or company, the sponsor must go in person to the Immigration Head Office in South Jakarta (Jakarta Selatan) and must produce a photocopy of applicant’s passport, a supporting letter and the applicant’s photograph. When it is approved, the Immigration Head Office will sends a copy of approval letter to the applicant.
Visitors to Indonesia are required to be in possession of valid passport with minimum of 6 months validity and a return or an onwards journey ticket at the time of arrival.
Other visa classes are available for entry into Indonesia including;
- Transit visa
- Visit Visa
- Tourist, Social, Business – for single and multiple journey
- Working visa (including dependants)
- Diplomatic service visa.
- Diplomatic service passport holders of 9 nations can obtain a 14 day visit visa; Cambodia, Mongolia, Cuba, Montenegro, Croatia, People’s Republic of China, India, Peru, Iran, Serbia, North Korea, Turkey, South Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Equador and Myanmar.
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