Jakarta. The Japanese Embassy launched a new visa application center in Jakarta on Friday (08/09) in a move to attract more Indonesian tourists by offering longer operational hours and improved services.
"As far as tourism is concerned, any improvement in visa services absolutely contributes to the number of tourists from one country to another," Vinsensius Jemadu, director for Asia-Pacific tourism promotion at the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism, said during the launch.
In his opening speech, Japanese Ambassador Masafumi Ishii highlighted a significant increase in the number of Indonesian tourists to Japan, which he said has increased to 140,000 last year from around 70,000 in 2012.
The heightened interest among Indonesians in Japan as a travel destination serves as a great opportunity for the country to meet its target of attracting 40 million foreign tourist annually by 2020. Ambassador Ishii said the Japanese government seeks to exploit this growth with the launch of the Japan Visa Application Center (JVAC), especially against the backdrop of next year's 60th anniversary of Indonesia-Japan diplomatic relations.
"The JVAC [allows for] shorter waiting times for [visa] applications, in a much more comfortable atmosphere. The opening hours have been extended to eight hours, and the number of service counters have been increased from just five [at the embassy] to 15," the ambassador said.
The JVAC will start to serve as the primary application center for Japanese visas on Sept. 15, when the embassy will cease to accept visa applications, except in a few exceptional cases, such as for diplomatic purposes.
The center, located at Lotte Shopping Avenue in Kuningan, South Jakarta, also offers other services, such as a photo booth and printing. It further provides online or SMS updates on visa applications.
VFS Global, an outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions, will facilitate the center's operations to ensure a "smoother, easier and hassle-free" visa application process, according to VFS Australasia chief operating officer Sriram Narayan.
Hideki Tomioka, the head of the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) in Jakarta, said the number of Indonesian tourists to the East Asian country may increase by 35 percent to 360,000 this year.
However, despite the increase in Indonesian visitors to Japan over the years, the number of Japanese tourists visiting Indonesia has not shown the same growth.
"Our main challenge in attracting as many tourists as possible [from Japan] is a lack of direct flights [from there to popular tourist destinations in Indonesia]," Vinsensius said.
Japan Airlines, the country's national flag carrier, ceased direct flights to Bali in 2010, which Vinsensius said has impacted the number of Japanese visiting Indonesia.
He added that the commencement of charter flights between Narita in Japan and Denpasar in June has been met with a positive response, which may pave the way for the resumption of regular flights soon.
"I am scheduled to meet the executives of Japan Airlines, and we will discuss opportunities for restarting regular flights to Indonesia," said Vinsensius, who will soon visit three Japanese cities to promote tourism in Indonesia.
The Tourism Ministry is also in talks with Garuda Indonesia on the possibility of increasing the frequency of flights to Japan.