Fri, 03 Nov 2000

Indonesia to limit number of Chinese tourists

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Culture and Tourism I Gede Ardika said on Thursday that Indonesia would limit the flow of tourists from China as the country's tourism "resources" were still inadequate to handle them.

"We really would like to attract as many Chinese tourists as possible, but we have to be realistic, we do not have the resources to handle so many," he told journalists during a break of a hearing with the House of Representatives' Commission V for industry and trade affairs.

The minister said that the easing of immigration restrictions, and the inclusion of Indonesia into the tourist destination list by the Chinese government might result in the increase in the number of the Chinese tourists to 1.3 million a year from only 20,000 previously.

But the government had to restrict the number of the Chinese tourists to between only 200,000 and 300,000 for next year, the minister said.

The government eased the overly-strict immigration regulations imposed on Chinese citizens following the visit of President Abdurrahman Wahid to China late last year.

In response, the Chinese government put Indonesia into its tourist destination lists. Unlike other countries, Chinese tourists are recommended only to visit countries included in the list provided by the government.

Jakarta and Beijing only resumed diplomatic ties in 1990. Ties with China were frozen in 1967, two years after an abortive communist coup which Indonesia claimed at the time involved China.

"If Indonesia welcomes an unlimited number of Chinese tourists into the country without proper preparations, they might have a bad time here and not want to come back," Ardika said.

Mandarin-speaking personnel in the tourism industry was one of the key ingredients in making Chinese tourists comfortable, of which there is a lack of, he said.

"We have asked the assistance of the Chinese government to create language competency standards for our personnel," Ardika said.

He said that the Chinese government agreed to the limitations, and would help by requiring that prospective tourists use a tour operator.

"In this way the operators would also be responsible for the people they bring into the country," Ardika said.

The minister said the Chinese were interested in visiting Indonesia because of a sense of nostalgia, to visit relatives, or to see the beauty of the country.

"We are also starting to become a shopping destination like Singapore," Ardika said adding that Indonesia should improve its production of handicrafts.

During the hearing, Ardika said he was optimistic that this year's target for tourists of 5.1 million would be reached.

He said that as of September the number of foreign visitors coming in through Indonesia's 13 points of entry was 3.08 million, bringing in an income of US$3.1 billion. (tnt)