By Reuters, published by The Straits Times
Kuta, Indonesia – Bali’s tourism industry is hoping for an uptick in business after Covid-19 social restrictions were eased for the resort island on Monday (Sept. 13), with the government beginning to formulate plans to allow foreign travel to resume.
The country’s once thriving holiday hotspot has been eerily quiet amid Indonesia’s Covid-19 outbreak – one of the worst in Asia – with hotels, restaurants and beaches shuttered.
But cases in the Southeast Asian nation have declined significantly in the past month after peaking in mid-July.
Senior government ministers said on Monday restrictions would be downgraded in Bali to allow for some tourist destinations to be opened and cinemas to operate at 50 percent capacity.
“Our hope is the virus spread can be kept under control, so that we can reach an 80 per cent to 90 per cent vaccination rate and then we can start to open for international tourists,” said Diah Anggraini, manager of the Grand Inna Kuta Hotel.
“The response from local tourists has been very good so far,” she said. “We see they are starting to have more confidence about travelling.”
Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said this week his ministry was drafting plans for reopening to foreign tourists, although the timing has not been finalised.
He recently flagged possibly applying Thailand’s “Phuket Sandbox” approach to Bali, which would allow a limited number of fully vaccinated foreign tourists from low-risk countries to visit without the need to quarantine.
Malaysia and Vietnam are also looking at opening up tourist havens to travel bubbles, including on the islands of Langkawi and Phu Quoc.
Speaking at an online press conference today (Sept. 14), Sandiaga said tourism areas should reach vaccination rates of 70 per cent before reopening, and also suggested regional collaboration to form a Phuket, Langkawi and Bali tourism “triangle”.
More than 66 percent of people on Bali are fully vaccinated, according to data from the country’s health ministry.
On Bali, locals whose livelihoods have taken a hit during the pandemic are keen for the reopening to go ahead.
“I hope the local government here can keep negotiating with the central government to let Bali stay open,” said 55-year-old Bali resident Made Danendra.
“So that all my relatives including my kids, brothers and sisters can go back to work.”
Top: A view of a Bali beach through a bamboo fence.
Home Page: Lots of boats at a Bali beach. Both photos: Alan Sung (CC BY 2.0)