Jakarta. The Environment and Forestry Ministry says it hopes a total of 295 million people will visit Indonesia's national parks and other nature tourism attractions over the next five years, including 20 million foreigners.
Tachrir Fathoni, director general for nature and ecosystem conservation at the ministry, said there are 51 national parks and 118 nature tourism parks throughout the archipelago, as well as over 500 other protected natural sites.
"We have a vast amount of beautiful nature, like mountains, lakes, craters, waterfalls, flora and fauna, as well as the cultures of local communities," Tachrir told journalists in Jakarta.
"We are going to focus on [attracting tourists from] 16 countries, prioritizing China, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Russia."
"Nature tourism can hopefully have a tangible effect nationally, contributing 8 percent of the national GDP," the official added. "We project Rp 240 trillion [$18 billion] in foreign exchange income and the creation of 13 million jobs."
In an attempt to boost tourist numbers, Indonesia this year waived visa requirements for nationals of an additional 30 countries, bringing the total to 45.
Citizens from the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as Hong Kong, Macau, Ecuador, Chile and Peru were already exempted from the visa requirement. The countries that joined the list this year are: China, Japan, South Korea, United States, Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, Russia, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and South Africa.
Australians still need a visa to visit Indonesia.Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said in March that the government was hoping that an estimated 10 million foreign tourists would spend at least $1 billion this year. Indonesia recorded 9 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2014, rising from 8.8 million visitors in 2013.