Should Indonesia review its visa exemption policy to stop tourist-related crimes in Bali?

Indonesia has so far allowed visa exemption to 169 countries, aimed at increasing the number of foreign tourists

Bali never stops attracting overseas tourists. The official data showed that the number of foreign tourists increased 13.17 percent in June 2019 from that in May 2019. If compared to June 2018 (year-to-year), the figure went up 0.96 percent.

However, the increase in the number of foreign visitors has posed a new problem: crimes committed by expats in Bali, leading to a question of whether Indonesia should review its free visa policy.

Indonesia's Free Visa Policy: Unilateral?

Indonesia has applied a free visa policy to 169 countries, aimed at attracting foreign tourists to the country. Indonesia saw a quite significant increase in the number of international visitors from March to September 2016 (2.66 percent each month) when the countries included in RI's visa waiver list hit 196, compared to 15 countries.

However, Indonesia's lawmakers have slammed the policy for not being effective in boosting the tourism sector. The increase in the percentage of foreign visitors visiting the country during the peak season is seen as normal, not as the impact of policy.

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Foreign tourists walk along Kuta beach on the Indonesian resort island of Bali Reuters

Also, the policy is considered unfair given that when Indonesia applies a visa exemption to certain countries, but not all of those nations do the same to Indonesia, said lawmaker Daenk Muhammad as Hukumonline reported.

Opponents of the policy argue that free-visa access could harm national security. And lawmakers have raised a concern that a free-visa program can push the influx of illegal workers entering the country.

Bali urges the visa exemption to be evaluated

Bali's Vice Governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati said in March 2019 that crimes committed by foreign travelers in Bali were the impact of free-visa access. The deputy stated that Bali is seeking an anticipating measure to restrict access to foreigners entering the island.

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Taiwanese actor Nicky Wu and Chinese actress Cecilia Liu Shishi wed in Bali Nicky Wu's Fan Page

An academician argued that the quality of visitors entering Bali had not improved despite the rise in the percentage of foreigners spending their time in the beautiful island.

"They [tourists] enter freely [with visa exemptions]. We don't know their job background and whether they have enough income [to travel to and from Bali] or whether they are decent people. This is where [crimes and misdemeanors] can happen," Agung Suryawan Wiranatha, the director of Udayana University's research institution, the Centre of Excellence in Tourism, told the Jakarta Post.