Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 15:07 | SYDNEY
Sunday 10 Oct 2021 | 15:07 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Travel advisory pitfalls


Fergus Hanson


12 March 2010 14:15

Here are two reader replies to my post on travel advisories to Indonesia. First Trevor Harrison from Asian Strategies writes:

The largest impact of the travel advisory is in the corporate area, on those companies and organisations that require their executives be insured for travel. Some insurance companies will not issue policies under the current advisory, and this has restricted Indonesia in its marketing to the MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions] industry in Australia.

The meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions market is the most profitable area of tourism, and one that Jakarta and Bali are particularly well set up to handle. It can also effect business. I know of one instance where a large research program sponsored by a group of Australian universities was conducted in all major Asian countries except Indonesia, because university policies would not allow research executives to travel without insurance coverage...Indonesia missed out.

Another reader from Jakarta comments:

The real problems from the travel warning are — as I see it — not immediately visible. The travel warning is an awful NTB (non-tariff barrier to trade). The travel warning frightens lawyers who advise corporate Australia, and the lawyers then recommend that corporates take internal steps to protect themselves against legal action from staff.

This leads to (a) layers of anti-risk bureaucracy, and (b) a culture of 'don't go to Indonesia'. For example, the ANU now imposes onerous requirements on staff who want to visit Indonesia, even for just a few days. Staff are expected to fill in onerous forms, including an emergency evacuation strategy, and to purchase full-fare open tickets (much more expensive than discount fares) so that their travel arrangements are entirely flexible and they can leave at any time.

Field trip travel to quite a few areas of Indonesia must be signed by quite senior university staff rather than just normal arrangements — and this adds days to the process (which makes it hard for staff to respond to short-term requests to attend a seminar or meeting).

All of this is fairly invisible except to staff affected — and for the people affected, it is an awful nuisance to go through this on every visit.

If you multiply this sort of thing across corporate Australia, the impact is very considerable indeed. And if you add it to general suspicion of Indonesia anyway, it is very unhelpful.

Perhaps the worst thing is that it is a case of Australia biting off its nose to spite itself. Ultimately, it is Australia that loses out from imposing NTBs of this kind, not Indonesia. Lots of other countries (larger than Australia) come to Indonesia. The Australian NTBs don't have much of an economic impact in Indonesia. But what these NTBs do is cut corporate Australia off from healthy economic activity in one of Asia's largest countries.