With foreign tourist arrivals in Indonesia averaging 800,000 per month, it would require record-high tourist arrivals in the last two months of 2015 to meet the government's target of welcoming 10 million tourists in 2015. In 2014 a total of 9.4 million foreign tourists visited Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago. On Monday (04/01), the nation's statistics agency (BPS) will release the foreign visitors figure for November 2015 and this will provide more clarity whether the target can be met.

There are several factors that explain the sluggish growth of tourist numbers. Firstly, the global economic environment has been plagued by uncertainty and GDP growth of many countries had to be revised down. The high level of uncertainty implies that part of the global population decided not to go on holiday or decided to take a holiday closer to the home country (or in the home country). For example, the economies of China, the Eurozone, and Japan have been under pressure in 2015.

Secondly, although having improved, promotional activities and events abroad (particularly in those countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East that obtained the visit-free access facility) need to be enhanced. In early December 2015, Indonesian Tourism Minister Arief Yahya launched a new television program called "Wondernesia" (short for Wonderful Indonesia). This TV program, which will air on Discovery and TLC across the Asia Pacific region, will promote holiday destinations across the archipelago, exposing the natural and cultural variety and beauty of the country. Furthermore, for 2016, the Indonesian government reserved spots at prominent tourism exhibitions in Berlin, London, Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore, and Japan.

Thirdly, it would make a big difference if there could be direct flights between those countries that obtained the visit-free access facility and Indonesia.

Read Column: Analysis of Indonesia's Tourism Industry

In 2016 the government targets to welcome 12 million foreign tourists (generating an expected USD $12 billion in foreign exchange), up 20 percent from the 2015 target. Considering that it will be difficult to achieve the 2015 target, it is doubtful whether the 2016 target can be achieved. Minister Yahya, however, is optimistic that the 2016 target can be met as the government seeks to intensify and increase collaboration with travel agents, airlines, media and other travel businesses.

In the first ten months of 2015, Singapore accounted for most foreign tourists to Indonesia (there were 1.2 million people from Singapore that visited Indonesia in the January-October 2015 period), followed by China (966,988 visitors in January-October 2015), Malaysia (957,414), Australia (878,920), and Japan (409,530).

Foreign Tourist Arrivals in Indonesia, 2013-2015:

Month  Tourist Arrivals
 Tourist Arrivals
 Tourist Arrivals
January        614,328        753,079        723,039
February        678,415        702,666        786,653
March        725,316        765,607        789,596
April        646,117        726,332        749,882
May        700,708        752,363        793,499
June        789,594        851,475        815,148
July        717,784        777,210        814,233
August        771,009        826,821        850,542
September        770,878        791,296        869,179
October        719,900        808,767        825,818
November        807,422        764,461
December        766,966        915,334
Total       8,802,129       9,435,411       8,017,589

Foreign Tourist Arrivals in Indonesia, 2007-2015:

    2008   2009   2010   2011   2012   2013   2014  2015  2016
Foreign Tourists
(in millions)
  6.23   6.32   7.00   7.65   8.04   8.80   9.44  10.0¹  12.0¹
Foreign Exchange
(in billion USD)
   n.a.   6.30   7.60   8.55   9.12   10.1   10.7  12.1

¹ indicates government target
Source: Statistics Indonesia (BPS)