Atambua. The Indonesian Ministry of Tourism has urged the government of Timor-Leste to modify its immigration regulations to boost tourism in border areas such as Atambua in East Nusa Tenggara.
Timor-Leste currently prohibits expatriates in the country from visiting Indonesia, even though they are entitled to enter the archipelago without visas.
The Tourism Ministry will therefore cooperate with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the matter.
"This is a discussion between government and government. We will cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to lobby the East Timorese government to change its immigration policy regarding tourism," Foreign Ministry official Vinsensius Jemadu said.
Willbrodus Lay, the head of Belu district in East Nusa Tenggara, and Johannes Prihatin, head of the district's tourism board, said the East Timorese government's regulations are prohibiting expatriates in that country from entering Indonesia through land border crossings.
Willybrodus said this does not benefit Indonesia as he believes many expatriates would like to visit the archipelago.
"The total number is huge – about 15,000 expatriates. Moreover, some of them would like to invest in Atambua. Until now, they have faced an ineffective process when visiting Indonesia. For instance, they need to go to Denpasar in Bali to report to their representatives. This is ineffective, considering that the country is visa-free for them," Willybrodus said.
The border checkpoints between Timor-Leste and East Nusa Tenggara are at Mota Ain, Wini and Mota Masin. The three checkpoints were recently renovated and public facilities, including money changers, were upgraded.
"It used to take several hours to cross to East Nusa Tenggara from Timor-Leste, but now it only takes about 30 minutes. We have many upcoming festivals to welcome their arrival, that is why they should visit us," Johannes said.