Jakarta. The number of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia rose by 1.8 percent to 16.1 million last year from 15.8 million in 2018, according to a monthly report by the Central Statistics Agency, or BPS, published on Monday.
The figure was far below the target of 18 million arrivals set by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo – a target that had been lowered from 20 million previously.
"If we compare [the 2019 number] to the one from 2018, there was just a slight increase, meaning that a lot more need to be done to lure foreign visitors," BPS head Suhariyanto said at a press conference in Jakarta.
The majority of Indonesia's foreign tourists – 9.83 million – traveled to the country by planes, 4.16 million entered through its seaports and 2.11 million caught buses and trains, the report said.
Malaysian visitors topped the list of visitors with 2.98 million or 18.51 percent, followed by visitors from China (2.07 million, 12.86 percent), Singapore (1.93 million, 12.01 percent), Australia (1.39 million, 8.61 percent) and Timor Leste (1.18 million, 7.32 percent).
Suhariyanto said the coronavirus outbreak would very likely hit Indonesia's tourism sector hard in the coming months due to the country's reliance on Chinese tourists.
Indonesia has decided to close its borders to all visitors from China starting on Wednesday to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Visa-on-arrival services for Chinese visitors have been suspended as well.
"The Chinese government has banned its citizens from traveling abroad. Indonesia has also closed its doors [to travelers from China]. This must have an impact soon," Suhariyanto said.
"Visitors from China accounted for 12 percent [of our total visitors in 2019]. The impact will be big and imminent," he said.
In December, foreign arrivals were down by 2.03 percent to 1.38 million from 1.41 million in the same month a year earlier. But that was also a rise of 7.52 percent since November 2019.