Bali governor Wayan Koster has reacted to reports of criminal activities committed by tourists from Russia and Ukraine with a proposal to revoke the visa-on-arrival (VOA) scheme for passport holders from the two countries.
Some of the crimes on record include illegal business operations in Bali.
Koster has submitted his proposal to Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry and the Law and Human Rights Ministry.
While travel trade players support the governor’s tough stance on crime watch, they deem the VOA revocation excessive and unnecessary.
According to RUS-CIS Bali DMC Association, whose members are inbound operators specialising in the Russian and CIS markets, withdrawing VOA would not solve the problem, as most of the lawbreakers hold long stay visas like B211, which applies to visitors entering the country for official government activities, business and commercial activities, family visit, tourism etc.
In a statement, the association said the move would only hurt the economy. It noted that, for the period of November 2022 to March 2023, contribution from travellers from Russia and CIS to Bali’s economy exceeded US$15 million.
Ngurah Rai Immigration data showed that Bali welcomed 43,622 Russian visitors between January and March this year.
Jimmy Saputra, president director of Pegasus Indonesia Travel, urged the government to reconsider the proposal, stating that the number of tourists who have violated the law is not significant. He added that the crimes were limited to Bali and not the whole of Indonesia.
A check with the Bali Police found that 56 out of 171 traffic offenders so far are Russians.
Instead of revoking the VOA, Saputra urged the police and authorities to take strict and uncompromising action against lawbreakers, regardless of their nationalities.
Putu Winastra, chairman of the Association of the Indonesian Tours & Travel Agencies (ASITA) Bali Chapter, hopes that crime monitoring and prosecution would be more systematic.
He also suggested that the police force should provide English language training to its officers, so that they can better explain local laws to foreigners.
In the meantime, to maintain order, the Bali Provincial Government has formed an integrated task force to monitor and take action against disruptive foreigners in Bali.
Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, deputy governor of Bali, said the task force would focus on traffic violations, illegal business activities, and residential permits. It will operate in three priority areas – Nusa Penida, Ubud and Sanur – and comprise representatives from the Bali Provincial Government, Bali Police, Bali Regional Office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, and the Bali immigration office.