Kenyans are free to travel to Indonesia without tourist visas, according to the latest directive issued by the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Indonesian government has offered visa-free travel for a group of countries including Kenya, hoping to pull in more numbers and boost its faltering tourism sector.
So far, tourists from 174 countries no longer need visas to enter the Asian nation. The latest group of countries offered the facility include Australia, Brazil, Ukraine, Kenya, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Palestine, Honduras, and Pakistan.
Others are Mongolia, Sierra Leone, Uruguay, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Albania, Mozambique, Macedonia, El Salvador, Zambia, Moldova, Madagascar, Georgia, Namibia, Kiribati, Armenia, Bolivia, Bhutan, Guatemala, Mauritania, and Paraguay.
“Offering visa-free travel is one of the easiest ways to boost tourist numbers,” Indonesian Tourism minister Arief Yahya was quoted as saying by the country’s local media.
Indonesia is known for its volcanic islands and scenic beaches. The country hopes to chalk up 20 million foreign tourists in 2019, doubling the 2015 record.
Visa-free travel will only be available through five international airports in Jakarta, Medan, Batam, Bali and Surabaya, and would come with tighter monitoring to minimise misuse of the facility, an Indonesian government official has said, adding foreign tourists found smuggling illegal goods, such as drugs, would face serious penalties.
The country’s President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has repeatedly said the visa-free travel is offered to boost the country’s tourism industry.
Kenya and Indonesia enjoy cordial relations and have had diplomatic ties since 1982. Diplomatic ties between the two countries began in July 1979, and in April 1982 Indonesia opened an Embassy in Nairobi.
The Kenyan High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is accredited to Indonesia and In April, 2015 the Government of Kenya appointed Mr Bilal Asif as the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Kenya to Indonesia.
Foreign Affairs secretary Amina Mohamed said recently Kenya is seeking to forge a strong partnership with the two countries.
“Kenya considers Indonesia an important partner and has identified and expressed interest in opening a mission in your country. In the meantime, Mr Bilal Asif was appointed as the Honorary Consul of Kenya early last year and we hope that the Government of Indonesia is granting him the necessary support to carry out his mandate,” said Ms Mohamed.
She spoke in Nairobi during the farewell lunch in honour of Mr Sunu Soemarno, who was the outgoing Indonesian ambassador in early 2016. She said: “Kenya, like Indonesia, is outward looking to have a diversified and growing economy that creates a lot of opportunities. We look forward to the review of the JCC that was signed on 3rd December, 2008. I believe this will bring on board new areas for co-operation between Kenya and your great country.”
The countries have signed bilateral agreements for co-operation in various fields, notable among them the agreement on economic, scientific, technical and cultural co-operation signed in Nairobi on September 2, 1992, an MOU on establishment of Joint Commission signed on June 19, 2008.
The two nations also signed Agreed Minutes for Joint Commission for Co-operation signed on 3rd December, 2008 besides Bilateral Air Services Agreement signed in 2007 and an MoU on Fisheries Co-operation signed in 2009.
According to the Export Promotion Council, the bi-lateral trade between Kenya and Indonesia is heavily in favour of Indonesia, with the trade balance rising from $272.6 million in 2007 to $327.3 million in 2009 and $491.4 million in 2011.
Kenya’s exports to Indonesia amounted to $24.9 million and accounted for only 0.4 per cent of Kenya’s total exports in 2011.
The exports to Indonesia fluctuated over the period between 2007 and 2011 and the export products included soda ash, black tea, tobacco and products, sheep skin leather and dried leguminous vegetables. Imports from Indonesia amounted to $516.3 million in 2011 and accounted for 3.4 per cent of Kenya’s total imports.
The main import products include crude palm oil, industrial chemicals, refrigerator, yarns, natural rubber and paper and paperboard.