• Sumatran women dance the Tor-tor folk dance to welcome tourists at the Tuk-tuk village in Samosir, Indonesia's North Sumatra Province.

Sumatran women dance the Tor-tor folk dance to welcome tourists at the Tuk-tuk village in Samosir, Indonesia's North Sumatra Province. (Photo : REUTERS)

Chinese tourist arrivals in Indonesia are expected to increase this year, as the Southeast Asian country has developed special historical destinations, enhanced supportive policies and improved promotions, a senior tourism official said in an interview with the Xinhua News Agency on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

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Indonesian Tourism Ministry's deputy for overseas promotion, I Gde Pitana, said that China and Indonesia have strong historical backgrounds that become one of the main engines for the two countries' tourism industries.

"China is the main market for us. In 2016, it will be the biggest market, (overtaking) Singapore, Australia and Malaysia," Pitana was quoted as saying.

According to Pitana, Indonesia expects 2.1 million Chinese, nearly double compared with last year's target of 1.3 million. The ministry said the number is more than a sixth of the 2016 goal of 12 million total inbound travelers, while the country received 10 million last year.

The report said that Indonesia has much higher expectations for Chinese visitors this year due to promotional campaigns, and cultural and historical destination development, in addition to a new visa-on-arrival policy adopted last June.

The total solar eclipse will also be visible from parts of Indonesia this spring, according to the report.

Pitana said that Southeast Asia only got a small slice out of the nearly 120 million Chinese who traveled overseas last year. Out of these, about 6 million visited Thailand and 2 million headed to Singapore.

Indonesia has received accolades from the global tourism industry, the report said. The country got three out of four awards at the 12th United Nations World Tourism Organization Awards Forum and three out of six at the ASEAN Travel Association Forum.

"This indicates what we have done is in line with international standards," Pitana said. "We expect Chinese visitors to be convinced of the appropriateness of Indonesia as a tourist destination."

Since Sept. 2014, Indonesia has been preparing to receive more Chinese, especially on China's Lunar New Year, known in Indonesia as Imlek, Pitana added.

"For the preparations of the Imlek, we have cooperated with all stakeholders and made preparations in several provinces, including how to organize celebrations for welcoming Chinese visitors," the official said.

A total solar eclipse will be witnessed in Indonesia on March 9, about a month after this year's Imlek rush.

"There will be 10 cities where you can witness the eclipse, which happens once in hundreds of years," Pitana said. "The longest eclipse will be visible in Sulawesi Island, six minutes. Preparations have been made to welcome visitors to experience the rare event, including facilities at sea."

The eclipse can be viewed around Bangka Belitung Island aboard a hundred yachts and a replica of the legendary ship from Indonesia's ancient Majapahit Kingdom, the official said.

In addition, several Indonesian destinations will host sites visited by acclaimed Chinese explorer Zheng He, who pioneered the ancient Maritime Silk Road in the 15th century.

"We have a celebration of the journey of Commodore Cheng Ho (Zheng He) every year," Pitana added.