By Ross B. Taylor
The release last week of international visitor arrivals into Perth looked a good news story: Up 9% for the year ended March 2017.
But take a closer look at the number of people coming to WA as tourists (excluding family, student and business visits) and the numbers from Indonesia really are awful. Just compare the number of holidaymakers arriving into Perth in this 12 month period:
- Malaysia: 71,488
- Singapore: 62,700
- Indonesia: 12,500
Our local hotel industry is desperate for more visitors and meanwhile Indonesia has a growing middle-class, approaching 100 million people and air travel for tourism is booming. So why such bad numbers?
Obtaining a visa to visit Australia is finally becoming easier thanks to a lot of work by our embassy in Jakarta and the WA Trade Office. For too long Indonesians have had to queue or complete up to 16 pages of information in order to apply for a visa, whilst their 'mates' in Malaysia and Singapore could apply online. Also, a family of four from Bali (for example) still must pay a non-refundable application fee of $520.00 just to try and get a visa for Australia. It's too expensive.
KL in Malaysia and Singapore have numerous flights into and from Perth each day with various airlines, whilst only Garuda Indonesia connects Perth and Jakarta; and that is not even a daily flight. BatikAir commence flights between our two countries this month and they will be a great addition to the travel industry in WA.
TourismWA have, I believe, not really developed a clear strategy for Indonesia in the past, preferring to focus on other countries. Like many business people here in Australia, they 'forgot' about the sleeping giant just a few hours to our north.
With TourismWA coming under the control of the Department of State development (DSD) in the near future - as part of the state government's re-structuring of its departments - let's hope we see some positive leadership in getting more Indonesians to visit us.
Perth and our state has much to offer international tourists, including from Indonesia. We just need to articulate what a great experience awaits our neighbors when they get here.
Ross B. Taylor AM is the president of the Indonesia Institute (Inc) that is based in Perth. Ross can be followed on Twitter: