Bali slides down popularity ranking this summer, as Japan moves up

Bali is one of Australian travellers’ favorite destinations but it looks like it’s not a top pick for holiday-makers this festive season.

Tourism and Transport Forum Australia’s (TTF) summer holiday survey, released on Thursday, found the top international destination this year was New Zealand, followed by anywhere in Europe, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and then … Indonesia.

Just four per cent of those surveyed said they were going to Indonesia, home of the wildly popular island, Bali, while 17 per cent were traveling to New Zealand, 16 per cent to Europe and 10 per cent to Japan.

Last year, Bali ranked third in TTF’s December survey, which asked Australians where they planned to travel within the next 12 months.

Europe and New Zealand were the top destinations and Japan sat behind Bali in fourth place.

TTF chief executive Margy Osmond told it was “surprising” Bali had fallen down Aussies’ wish lists, but said Japan in particular had been growing in popularity for some time.

“Japan is becoming a favorite Aussie hotspot,” she said.

“The people are incredibly welcoming, the food is delicious, the culture is endlessly fascinating and it’s also a great option for anyone who loves skiing or other snow sports, as many Australians do.

“While Indonesia now has strong competition from the likes of Thailand and elsewhere in Asia, Australians’ love affair with Bali is far from over.

“We expect many Australians will flock to Bali over the next 12 months, especially considering it’s still one of the cheapest overseas destinations to fly to outside of Australia.”

Australians’ love for Japan has been made clear this year.

For the first time in eight years, Bali was dethroned as Aussies’ favorite spot for international travel over summer on this year’s Expedia ranking.

Tokyo took the top spot instead. Coming in third was Singapore, followed by Japan’s Osaka and Kyoto, then New York.

Expedia brands managing director Daniel Finch said while Bali is normally “neck and neck” with Hawaii and Fiji as top travel destinations this time of year, the cost of living pressures at home were causing Aussies to shake up their holiday plans.

While Bali is touted as a cost effective holiday where the Australian dollar stretches quite far, the Japanese yen has plummeted to a 15-year low against the euro this year.

“Japan is a really good option for people who don’t want to travel to North America or Europe but who want the snow,” Mr Finch said.

Japan has also been proven incredibly popular by Airbnb data.

A whopping eight out of the top 10 international destinations Aussies were searching for most on Airbnb from January 1 to September 15 for stays in November and December this year were in Japan.

Japan removed all its Covid-related travel requirements for tourists in April, including the need for Covid testing and vaccination certificates.

It means this is the first summer holiday period for Australians in years that they are able to travel freely.

Visa-free travel to Bali is back on the cards

An Indonesian tourism expert believes strong competition for Aussie tourists is why Australians may soon be able to travel to Bali visa-free again, saving travelers about $50 each.

Visa-free travel was formally scrapped in June, with Indonesian officials confirming the policy, which was suspended during the pandemic, would not be reinstated.

Officials had said at the time they didn’t need a visa-free system to attract international tourists post-Covid.

Currently, Australian tourists heading to Bali need to get a Visa on Arrival (VOA) at Bali Airport or online before even landing in Indonesia (e-VOA), which allows them to stay for 30 days, with the option to extend for another 30 days, and costs about $50 (500,000 IDR).

Ross Taylor, founder of the Indonesia Institute which promotes Indonesia-Australia relations, told Bali would welcome almost one million Australians this year representing a very strong rebound after Covid.

But he said competition for tourists was increasing, particularly as people tightened their belts.

“Indonesia is making a ‘pre-emptive strike’ to make sure that tourist numbers for other parts of Indonesia keep increasing, and for Bali arrival numbers will at least hold at current levels,” he said.

“In 2016 when Indonesia first removed the VoA fees, we saw a 16 per cent increase in Australians heading to Bali, so the evidence does suggest that by cutting red-tape and government fees, more tourists will come.”

It is not to be confused with the new Bali tourist tax, which is due to start on February 14 next year.

That is a 150,000 IDR charge (about $15) that all international tourists must pay when entering the popular holiday island.

Indonesian Deputy Tourism Minister Ni Made Ayu Marthini told during a visit to Melbourne in October “this money will be used in our efforts to establish sustainable tourism.”

“Primarily, these funds will be used to improve waste management, preserve cultural sites and the local environment. We call this sustainable tourism,” she said.

Mr Taylor said he thought most Australians would support this tax.

“Particularly if the $15 stays in Bali whereas the $50 VoA tax goes straight to Jakarta,” he explained.

Australians holidaying at home this summer

The TTF summer travel survey found compared to the 14 per cent traveling overseas, 62 per cent will holiday in Australia this summer.

The most popular Aussie destination is the Gold Coast, with Queensland being the most popular state followed by NSW and Victoria.

The most popular city for Australian visitors is Sydney.

“It’s fantastic to see so many Aussies are holidaying here in Australia this year, helping support our local tourism operators, who’ll also benefit from more international visitors heading down below,” TTF chief executive Margy Osmond said.

TTF commissioned the survey from polling company Pure Profile, with a sample size of 2000 Australians aged 18 to 65+. Responses were collected from December 5 to 11 about how they would travel from December to February.