Particularly in November and December 2017 the flow of tourists to Bali was interrupted due to continuous volcanic activity at Mount Agung, including multiple eruptions. Tourism Minister Yahya said visitor numbers have still not recovered fully in the first month of 2018. Considering Bali accounts for around 40 percent of total foreign visitor arrivals in Indonesia, any disturbance to tourism in Bali is immediately felt by the whole nation. Moreover, it implies Indonesia misses out on much-needed foreign exchange earnings as foreign visitors is one of the key sources of the nation's foreign exchange earnings. It is estimated that each foreign tourist spends an average of USD $100 per day during his/her stay in Indonesia.

Based on the latest BPS data, foreign tourist arrivals at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport fell 24.29 percent (y/y) to 345,191 individuals in January 2018, from 455,930 foreign visitor arrivals in January 2017. However, compared to December 2017 visitor arrivals on Bali rose 11.55 percent (m/m). This is in stark contrast to all other international airports in Indonesia (with the exception of Juanda Airport in Surabaya). Usually foreign visitor arrivals decline in January from December as the (winter) holiday period starts in December and therefore boosts December tourist numbers. In January 2018, however, Bali and Juanda experienced a month-on-month increase in tourist arrivals due to reduced volcanic activity.

By developing ten priority tourist destinations the Indonesian government is eager to reduce its dependence on Bali as center for foreign tourists. It may create new Special Economic Zones (Kawasan Ekonomi Khusus, or KEK) to attract (foreign) investment in these priority tourist destinations (through a one-stop service it will become much easier to obtain all required permits). Such investment is particularly needed for the development of infrastructure and property (including tourist attractions) that is desired and needed by tourists.

Read more: Tourism Industry Indonesia: Gov't Seeks $20 Billion of Investment

It is, however, highly doubted whether the development of other tourist centers can undermine the dominant position of Bali in terms of tourist arrivals in Indonesia. For instance, many tourists come to Bali to see elements of the Hindu-Buddhist culture (including art, temples, dances, plays and more). Most other cultures in Indonesia fail to attract the interest of foreign tourists.

Meanwhile, infrastructure development is also key. Bali has a good road network, a big airport, and good Internet connection. It will take many years to build such infrastructure in other areas.

Monthly Foreign Visitor Arrivals in Indonesia:

Month Tourist Arrivals
Tourist Arrivals
January     1,107,968     1,039,639
February      957,583
March     1,066,588
April     1,142,180
May     1,150,067
June     1,111,616
July     1,379,961
August     1,404,664
September     1,213,640
October     1,158,599
November     1,062,030
December     1,147,031
Total    14,039,799


Month Tourist Arrivals
Tourist Arrivals
Tourist Arrivals
Tourist Arrivals
January       614,328       753,079       723,039       814,303
February       678,415       702,666       786,653       888,309
March       725,316       765,607       789,596       915,019
April       646,117       726,332       749,882       901,095
May       700,708       752,363       793,499       915,206
June       789,594       851,475       815,148       857,651
July       717,784       777,210       814,233     1,032,741
August       771,009       826,821       850,542     1,031,986
September       770,878       791,296       869,179     1,006,653
October       719,900       808,767       825,818     1,040,651
November       807,422       764,461       777,976     1,002,333
December       766,966       915,334       913,828     1,113,328
Total      8,802,129      9,435,411      9,729,350    11,519,275

Annual Foreign Visitor Arrivals in Indonesia:

  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Foreign Tourists
(in millions)
 8.80  9.44  9.73 11.52 14.04 17.00¹

¹ government target

  2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Foreign Tourists
(in millions)
 5.51  6.23  6.32  7.00  7.65  8.04

Source: Statistics Indonesia (BPS)