Indonesia’s plans to reopen Bali to international tourists from 11th September have been put on ice, with the government deciding to follow global trends and err on the side of caution. The revival of inbound tourism on Indonesia’s premier holiday island has been tentatively pushed back to the end of this year, pending a turnaround in the global pandemic situation.
The decision, announced by the provincial government of Bali via press release on Saturday (22/8), is in part determined by Indonesia’s current policy regarding its own citizens. Prior to the announcement, Bali officials were planning to reopen Bali to tourists in three phases, with local residents granted access to tourism objects from 9th July, followed by domestic (Indonesian) tourists at the end of the month and finally international visitors from 11th September.
“The government is still prohibiting its citizens from traveling abroad at least until the end of 2020,” explained Bali Governor Wayan Koster in the statement. “In line with the policy, we also cannot open the gate to international travellers until the end of 2020 as the situation in Indonesia, including Bali, is not yet safe to welcome them,” he continued.
The latest disappointing climb-down for Indonesia’s tourism sector can also be attributed to wider trends, according to Koster. He remarks in the release that “there is [currently] no country in the world that has allowed its citizens to travel abroad. For example, Australia has not allowed its citizens to travel abroad until 2021. This is also the case for China, Korea, Japan and many European countries,” added the governor.
Despite the setback, there is still reason for optimism in Bali. According to the press release from Bali’s governor, “there has been no increase and no new clusters” of Covid-19 following the completion of Bali’s first two planned phases of reopening, completed in July. Stringent testing has shown that the first and second phase activities did not affect the Covid-19 cases. “New cases are under control, the recovery rate is increasing and [the] fatality rate is under control,” says the statement. Since reopening to domestic tourists on 31st July, Bali has seen a more than 100% increase in arrivals. This would suggest that demand for Bali remains strong, while the island’s ability to safely receive visitors has also been tested and shown to be successful.
Indonesian officials are working to reopen the country – and in particular Bali – to international arrivals as soon as possible, though have admitted that their haste should not be allowed to override safety concerns. Regional figures such as Koster have added their support to central government plans for recovery, and are also standing by the decision to postpone the reopening, citing caution as their main concern at this time.
“We should be careful,” explains Koster. “[We] cannot hurry [the reopening schedule] as we need to be well prepared. In attempting to recover tourism, Bali should not fail, because it will badly impact the image of Indonesia in the eyes of the world,” he concluded.
Bali is Indonesia’s most famous tourist destination, with an economy that is heavily balanced toward tourism. An estimated 80% of the island’s income is thought to come from tourism, which explains the 11% dip recorded in the second quarter of this year, as the island has been closed to tourists – both international and domestic. Bali is expected to focus its resources on maintaining infrastructure through steadily recovering domestic tourism, in the hope that a return of international visitors, though delayed, is not too far away.