Strong outbound demand from Russian tourists for Indonesia’s tourism sector, but uncertainty over the reopening of borders to international tourists is hampering sales efforts in the destination.
Asekan Djoyo Dono, director of Asia Collection Tour, said his company had started taking bookings for flights from Russia to Bali. “Demand has picked up. We’re even dealing with groups from Russia in October,” he added.
In addition, Russian market interest in Pegasus Indonesia Travel has also increased slightly this month. Jimmy Saputra, the company’s president, said their partners in Russia had started asking when Bali would reopen.
Jimmy elaborates: “Russian tourists are ready to travel and our wholesaler partners want to sell Bali as soon as possible. But they are hesitant to add Bali to the list as it is unclear when the central government will reopen the borders .”
Likewise, Paul Edmondus Tallo, president of the Indonesian Inbound Tour Operators Association, said most operators are ready to restart with safety and cleaning protocols in place and are waiting for authorities to lift the ban on international travel.
“[We need to]determine when the borders will reopen because we have to start selling. The government needs to at least provide a clear timetable so we can start making business plans,” he said.
The governor of Bali announced on July 5 that the destination will be ready to reopen to international tourists from September 11, but as of press time, the industry is still waiting for the central government to announce the reopening date of the border and the policy to start sales.
At the same time, Paul urged the tourism industry to create new tourism products to attract more Russian tourists.
“They are no longer just looking for the beach. These days, Russian tourists want to explore new places. In fact, they are now looking for adventure activities, such as overland trips to Flores and treks to Mount Kelimutu,” shares Paul road.
Anna Prikhodko, manager of the Russian Tourist Office (VITO), said Russian tourists are attracted by Indonesia’s natural beauty, friendly locals, historical and cultural heritage, and lower cost of living compared to the US and Europe.
Although about 80 percent of Russian tourists to Indonesia choose to go to Bali, they have started looking for other destinations in the archipelago to explore, Prihodko said.
“In recent years, Russian tourists have started traveling to Lombok, Yogyakarta, Flores, North Sumatra, Batam and Bintan,” Ana said.
Asekan agreed, saying that before the outbreak he saw demand from Russians wanting to visit Papua increase to eight percent. In addition to Papua, Russian tourists have also begun to combine Bali with Sumba, Labuan Bajo, and Flores for travel. “They’re looking for a quieter, more exotic destination than crowded Bali,” he added.
However, Jimmy believes that the lack of flight connections poses a challenge to increasing passenger traffic from Russia. Currently, only Aeroflot offers non-stop flights from Moscow to Bali, despite being a significant market contributor for the country.
Statistics show that in 2019, the number of Russian tourists visiting Indonesia reached 158,943, a year-on-year increase of 26.4%. Arrivals, however, fell to 26,869 in January and February 2020 amid the coronavirus outbreak.
He suggested that the government should try to attract airlines to use different entry points such as Medan besides Bali.
Jimmy added: “Imagine if tourists come in from Medan, then go to Riau Islands, then Java, and finally Bali. better way.”