Malaysians, Chinese lead record influx of tourists to Indonesia

A beach in Bali, Indonesia. (Bloomberg pic)

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s pristine beaches and scattered islands drew a record number of foreign tourists last year with the Malaysians and Chinese topping the list.

Foreign tourist arrivals reached 15.8 million in 2018, 13% more than a year earlier, Indonesia’s statistics bureau said on Friday. More than 2.5 million Malaysians visited the archipelago in 2018, while the Chinese came second at 2.14 million, data showed. But the country missed its target to draw 17 million visitors after it was struck by multiple earthquakes and tsunamis.

President Joko Widodo is aggressively pushing tourism as he bets the sector can emerge as a top source for foreign exchange for a government that’s struggling to contain a widening current-account deficit. The government is targeting 20 million foreign tourists this year and forex earnings of about US$20 billion, according to Tourism Minister Arief Yahya.