Bali set to become Australia's No.1 tourist destination after visa fee scrapping
CANBERRA, (Xinhua) -- Bali is expected to become Australia's top tourist destination after the Indonesian government waived the much-maligned visa entry fee for Australians.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo made the announcement that Australia would be added to the list of the countries exempt from the 50-Australian-dollar (38 U.S. dollar) fee on Wednesday, which has been a constant source of annoyance for sun-seeking Aussie holidaymakers.
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) welcomed the decision although Indonesia is yet to settle on a date when the law will formally take affect.
"Australia is one of 169 countries granted visa-free visits," the DFAT spokeswoman said in a statement on Wednesday. "Australian tourists will be able to take visa-free visits for up to 30-days."
However, according to Cindy Lugte, the curator of a Balinese travel website, many Australian arrivals in the region had already benefited from the decision.
"(Today's) early morning arrivals still had to pay for the visa while lucky late afternoon visitors were told to keep their money and enjoy their holiday in Bali," Lugten, coordinator of Bali.com, told News Corp on Wednesday.
"It might take a while before it is completely implemented at the other designated airports but Bali seems to be ready."
Around 1 million Australians travel annually to the small Indonesian island, known as an affordable holiday haven for beach goers.
In 2014, a report estimated that Indonesia was Australia's second most visited nation, just behind New Zealand with 1.2 million tourists.
Lugten said she believed the new laws would allay any fears Australians had about coming to Bali, and result in Indonesia - and more specifically Bali - supplanting New Zealand as Australia's most visited travel destination.
"Almost all of the questions we received at Bali.com were related to visa requirements," Lugten said. "Now visitors can concentrate on more fun matters and use the money to support the local businesses."
Nine other countries also won the exemption, including Ukraine, Bangladesh, Albania, Malawi, Nepal, Paraguay, Samoa, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
New Zealand, China, Britain, the United States and Russia are already on the list, and citizens of those countries can enter Indonesia without paying the nominal fee.