Jakarta. Indonesia expects the implementation of Asean’s common visa will attract more foreign tourists to the archipelago.
The common visa, which grants visitors the right to enter any country within the Southeast Asian block using one single permit, will be implemented in conjunction with the Asean Economic Community on Dec. 31, 2015.
“The AEC could potentially boost tourism growth to over 10 percent from the current pace of 9 percent. The common visa will make it easier for tourists to travel to Indonesia,” Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said on Tuesday.
Some 8.8 million foreign tourists visited Indonesia last year, up 9.2 percent from a year earlier, data from Central Statistics Agency showed.
Mari said a common visa could encourage tourists from across the region to visit Indonesia via certain transit locations, such as Singapore and Bangkok.
The minister expected all of Asean’s members to agree on the common visa before the AEC in 2015, with the latest country, Myanmar, to also weigh in this year.
The Asean tourism sector grew at an annual average of 8.3 percent between 2005 and 2012 and expanded 12 percent last year. If growth continued at its current pace, Mari said, the industry will be worth $480 billion over the next decade.
“This is why we should take the opportunity to strengthen our economy,” she said, adding that tourism contributes 3.8 percent of Indonesia’s $900 billion gross domestic product. The minister said the country is very competitive in terms of natural and cultural attractions for travelers.
Still, it lacks infrastructure, especially in transportation, to cope with a rising influx of visitors.
Edimon Ginting, deputy country director for Indonesia at the Asian Development Bank’s Indonesian Resident Mission, said the government needs to boost development of infrastructure ahead of the AEC.
“The government should respond quickly, they must see the AEC as encouragement to rapidly enhance and add to the country’s infrastructure in the next year,” Edimon said.