The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) said Friday Indonesia saw a 15.7 percent jump in the number of foreign arrivals to 1.41 million in the first quarter of 2008 from 1.22 million in the same period last year.
In March alone, the number of foreign arrivals hit 502,000, up by 13.30 percent from 443,100 in the same month last year.
The statistics show Bali remained the county's most popular destination for foreigners, with 446,886 visitors arriving in Ngurah Rai Airport, a 28.38 percent increase from the 363,686 received in the same period last year.
Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi, experienced the lowest number of foreign arrivals with 3,941, or contributing to only 0.28 percent of the country's total arrivals.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism recently launched the Visit Indonesia Year 2008 program, targeting seven million foreign arrivals and US$6.3 million in foreign exchange revenue for the year.
"The number of foreign arrivals in the first quarter was still far from the government's target. However, the period is not the peak season for tourism. We expect a very high number of arrivals around July and August," Rusman said.
He also said the average length of stay for foreign tourists decreased 0.06 percent to 2.69 days in February from 2.86 days in the previous month.
The agency's director of finance, information technology and tourism statistics, Sasmito Hadi Wibowo, said most visitors came from Asian countries.
"The numbers of visitors from Singapore, Malaysia and Japan were the highest, while those from Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt were the smallest," Sasmito told The Jakarta Post.
BPS records show there were around 291,092 visitors from Singapore, 202,128 from Malaysia and 140,682 from Japan in the first quarter, while South Koreans, Australians, Chinese, Taiwanese, Britons, Americans and Indians made up the rest of the top-10 list of foreign visitors.
Sinking down in the list were visitors from France, the Netherlands and Germany, with a combined contribution of no more than 6 percent of the total. Indonesia recorded around 27,799 visitors from Germany, 22,846 from France and 21,567 from the Netherlands in the same period.
An air embargo imposed by the European Union on Indonesian air carriers is likely to have resulted in the decrease in visitors from EU countries. (dia)