We are working closely, and the cooperation will be mutually beneficial."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia is trying to attract foreign tourists from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as it anticipates that tourist arrivals from Malaysia may drop in the coming month of fasting.

The Tourism Ministry has predicted that the number of tourist arrivals from Malaysia will drop by about 10 to 15 percent as Malaysians do not prefer to travel during the fasting months.

Therefore, the government is cooperating with Qatars national flag carrier, Qatar Airways, to increase the frequency of flights to Indonesian tourist destinations.

It also established cooperation with Emirates Airlines to increase the frequency of direct flights from the United Arab Emirates to tourism destinations, such as Jakarta, Surabaya (East Java), Denpasar (Bali), and Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara).

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said on Thursday that he recently visited Dubai to promote the countrys Halal Tourism Destinations and its visa-free policy that is designed to lure tourists from Dubai to visit Indonesia.

"Emirates Airlines will fly twice a day to Jakarta and once a week to Bali. This will be good for us. The number of tourists is expected to rise. We also offer direct flights to Lombok," Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said in Jakarta on Thursday.

In 2015, Lombok won the Worlds Best Halal Destination and the Worlds Best Honeymoon Destination awards.

Indonesia hopes it would attract about 10 to 12 million foreign tourist arrivals this year and about 20 million by 2019.

In the January-February 2016 period, some 1.70 million foreign tourists had arrived in Indonesia, up 4.46 percent from the previous years figure of 1.63 million for the same period.

However, the number of tourists from Malaysia, which contributed some 1.2 million foreign tourist arrivals annually, is expected to drop during the fasting month of June.

Data with the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) showed that last January, the number of tourist arrivals from Malaysia was 83,376, down from the same period last year when it was 91,055.

"During the fasting month, Malaysian tourist arrivals in the country are expected to fall. Malaysians are similar to Indonesians who avoid travelling during the fasting month. Therefore, we should seek and attract tourists from other countries as a substitute (to the Malaysians)," Minister Arief stated after opening a coordination meeting on tourism in Jakarta on Thursday (April 28).

A decline of 10 to 15 percent is forecast in the number of Malaysian tourist arrivals. The number of Malaysian tourists arriving in Indonesia during regular months reaches some 100 thousand per month or 1.2 million per year, Arief noted.

"We hope to cover the decline in Malaysian tourist arrivals by attracting tourists from the Middle East and Europe during the fasting month. I look at Dubai as it has a population of 2.6 million, while its natives account for only seven percent. So, I hope that the people from Dubai will visit Indonesia as they do not observe fasting," the minister remarked.

Therefore the Tourism Ministry has established cooperation with Emirates Airlines to increase the frequency of direct flights from the United Arab Emirates to tourism destinations.

"We are working closely, and the cooperation will be mutually beneficial," Arief noted in a statement received by ANTARA News on Wednesday (April 27).

The cooperation was realized with the signing of a Letter of Intent (LoI) with Emirates Airlines during the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2016 in Dubai on April 25-28, 2016.

According to Arief, the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism is participating in the ATM 2016 in Dubai to promote halal tourism, and halal destination, which is also known by the term "family-friendly tourism."

Indonesia has designated at least 10 provinces as halal tourist destinations, which comprise six provinces or special regions in Java (Banten, Jakarta, West Java, and Central Java, in addition to Yogyakarta and East Java), two in Sumatra (West Sumatra and Aceh), one in Kalimantan (South Kalimantan) and one in Nusa Tenggara (West Nusa Tenggara/NTB).

It is also promoting ten tourism destinations which included Lake Toba (North Sumatra), Belitung (Bangka Belitung), Tanjung Lesung (Banten), Seribu Islands (Jakarta), Borobudur Temple (Central Java), Mount Bromo (East Java), Mandalika Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara), Komodo Island (East Nusa Tenggara), Wakatobi National Park (Southeast Sulawesi), and Morotai (North Maluku).

The cooperation with Emirates Airlines aims to increase passenger capacity, especially for foreign tourists, to enjoy the beauty of tourist sites in Indonesia.

Arief affirmed that the LoI was an attempt to open up access and build connectivity from the Middle East to Indonesia.

Emirates, the fourth-best airline in the world, is keen to operate regular scheduled flights of its aircraft to the four Indonesian international airports in Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar, and Lombok.

Currently, Emirates operates six direct flights to Indonesia on the Dubai-Denpasar route and 14 flights on the Dubai-Jakarta route per week.

Besides with Emirates Airlines, Indonesia is cooperating with Qatars national flag carrier, Qatar Airways, to increase flight frequency to Indonesias tourist destinations.

Indonesian Ambassador to Qatar Muhammad Basri Sidehabi held a meeting with Head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Qatar Abdullah Nasser Turki Al Subaey in Doha to discuss the cooperation.

Qatar Airways will increase the number of flights to Medan, Batam, and Manado in a bid to increase tourist arrivals in Indonesia. The meeting was a follow up to President Joko Widodos visit to Qatar on September 14-15, 2015.

Now, Qatar Airways operates 21 flights from Doha to Jakarta and 14 flights from Doha to Denpasar per week. Meanwhile, plans to start seven weekly flights from Doha to Surabaya are in the process of realization.

The meeting also discussed the potential of establishing economic and trade cooperation between Indonesia and Qatar through the Trade Tourism and Investment.

Reporter: Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Priyambodo RH
Copyright © ANTARA 2016