Members of the Diplomatic Ladies Group in Dubai and Emirati social media influencers gather at the Official Residence of the Consul General of Indonesia in Dubai on Wednesday. John Varughese / Gulf Today
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
Indonesia has de-regulated its Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)-related travel restrictions and 72 nationalities, including four from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), may now avail of tourist visas upon arrival.
International and domestic tourists to the world’s largest archipelago of over 17,000 islands, lying on the so-called Ring of Fire and between the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean also need not worry, since 11,986 tourism establishments, including restaurants and shops across 34 provinces, have so far been certified, through the “Cleanliness, Health, Safety and Environmental Sustainability” programme of Jakarta’s Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy (MoTCE), implemented beginning November 2020.
These were from separate interviews with Indonesian Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates Candra Negara and MoTCE-Middle East Representative Nour Aridi on Wednesday morning, when the Diplomatic Ladies Group of Dubai as well as Emirati social influencers were treated to traditional Indonesian fare and the Balinese massage, part of cultural diplomacy and the re-introduction of Bali Province as a prime tourism destination.
“The Indonesian Government has opened up its borders to all foreign visitors as long as they have taken vaccines against COVID-19. The travel situation is almost normal. We have been continually receiving enquiries regarding (holiday) and business. Families are interested in going there,” said Negara.
Thus, the “Balinese Tourism and Massage” health and wellness event which Novita Negara, wife of the consul general, hosted.
MoTCE 2018 to 2020 records, quoted by Aridi, revealed that of the 16,107,000 foreign guests to Indonesia in 2019, 242,569 were from the Middle East while 25,722 were from North Africa, with 9,065 Emiratis.
“Enquiries and actual travels (from the region) are already (on the spike). They want to go to Indonesia for its authenticity and new or unique experience. They love the memorable and instagrammable moments,” she also said, adding that Jordanians, Tunisians, Egyptians and Moroccans had been added to the updated list of nationalities granted tourist visas upon arrival. Saudis, Emiratis, Qataris, Omanis, Bahrainis and Kuwaitis have been in the list.
Tourist visa upon arrival costs $35.00 (Dhs128.50).
The 2018 to early 2020 MoTCE MENA data revealed that international and MENA travellers had Bali as their most preferred destination while Jakarta (Java Island) and Batam and Bintan Islands (Province of Riau Islands) were “the international ports with the most arrivals.”
Aside from Bali, the top pre-pandemic tourism destinations for MENA travellers, particularly from 2018 were Jakarta “for shopping,” West Java “for its green scenery” and Lombok Island.
Aridi said COVID-19 has made travellers extra cautious on health and safety: “(In our discussions with) international markets their top concerns (had been the) entry regulation and also the mandatory quarantine. Now, you may enter Indonesia without quarantine for the (fully-vaccinated). International visitors also do not need to do the (Polymerase Chain Reaction) swab test upon their arrival in Indonesia.”
On the health and wellness aspect of the Balinese massage, it was learnt that this therapy came into form during the 13th to 16th century mighty Majapahit Empire of the present Southeast Asia, the seat of power of which was in Indonesia. It is a mix of the Ayuverda of India, the Acupressure of China and the other ancient healing techniques and aromatherapy of the then empire.
“We had a relaxing morning. It was an amazing opportunity and a fantastic experience to be in Indonesia (while in Dubai). I was fascinated by the Indonesian mystique,” said Diplomatic Ladies Group in Dubai president Muslima Zhumabek, wife of Khazakstan Consul General Rauan Zhumabek.
She was grateful the event was organized; and, as she mentioned of the September 14 to 15, 2022 the “Seventh Meeting of the Congress of Leaders and Traditional Religions” her homeland is hosting, Zhumabek also said: “I would like to note that each person must start with himself and carry the culture of his country with honour and dignity, while respecting the culture and traditions of the country in which he lives.”