Indonesia: Bali reopens to eerie hush; its airport seemed as quiet as the private getaways that the tropical island has to offer


The international arrivals terminal at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, Bali remains empty on Oct 14, 2021, the first day of the resort island's reopening to foreign visitors. - Jakarta Post/ANN

JAKARTA, Oct 15 (Jakarta Post/ANN): The world-famous resort island of Bali took its first step to welcome back international visitors on Thursday 9Oct 14), but the tourism-dependent province will likely have to wait some more until the global fanfare arrives in earnest.

I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport seemed as quiet as the private getaways that the tropical island has to offer, with vacant reception desks and flight information screens still switched off.

Rows of chairs and beach-style daybeds, which dotted the international arrivals terminal in anticipation of weary holiday goers, remain unused.

On the first day of its reopening, the nation's top tourist destination would not see any incoming international flights or travelers to help revive its economy after over a year of travel restrictions.

“We’ve been notified of the reopening for international travelers, but there haven’t been any scheduled landings,” said airport spokesman Taufan Yudhistira on Thursday.

Airport authorities, he said, were still awaiting a ministerial regulation that governs international flight access to Bali.

“We haven’t gotten it yet.”

NEW RULES

After a year-and-a-half of being shuttered from foreign visitors, Bali may now accept direct international flights under certain conditions from 19 countries with low Covid-19 positivity rates and caseloads.

Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who oversees the Covid-19 response for Java and Bali, announced the list on Wednesday.

The eligible countries are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Hungary and Norway. China and India are Bali’s second- and third-biggest tourist source countries, with Australia holding the top spot.

The two Asian countries contributed 24.9 percent to the province’s total foreign tourist arrivals in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data show.

Visitors arriving from listed countries are now required to quarantine in a hotel for five days, show proof of having received at least two vaccine doses, provide a negative PCR test result and have health insurance that covers Covid-19 treatment abroad, among other requirements.

Travellers from unlisted countries must fly to Jakarta or Manado, then take a domestic flight to Bali, the office of the coordinating minister stated. Specific requirements are regulated under Covid-19 task force decree No. 14/2021 and circular letter No. 20/2021, both of which were issued on Wednesday.

Cleaners walk past the quiet international terminal at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, Bali, on Oct. 14, 2021. International flights have yet to resume despite the much-awaited reopening of the resort island. - Jakarta Post/ANNCleaners walk past the quiet international terminal at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, Bali, on Oct. 14, 2021. International flights have yet to resume despite the much-awaited reopening of the resort island. - Jakarta Post/ANN

WELL-PREPARED

Currently, there are 35 hotels that have been vetted as quarantine facilities, situated in three of Bali’s designated COVID-19 green zones: Nusa Dua, Sanur and Ubud. But international demand for them has yet to pick up.

“The quarantine hotels have not received any bookings for this month, but a few have been made for November,” said IGN Rai Suryawijaya, vice chairman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association’s (PHRI) Bali chapter.

One such hotel, the Griya Santrian Beach Resort and Spa, has yet to receive any bookings from abroad, even though its owner has been preparing well in advance.

“We’ve been ready for a few months now, since the government planned to reopen in July. So now we’re actually more than prepared,” said Ida Bagus Sidharta Putra, the hotel’s owner, on Thursday.

Bagus ensured that his hotel had been comprehensively certified for reopening, and that foreign tourists would eventually co

CAUTIOUS APPROACH

The government suspended international travel to the island province in April 2020 after the discovery of sustained Covid-19 cases in the country.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo initially hoped to reopen Bali in September of last year, but the move was repeatedly delayed as cases surged around the world, including during a Delta variant-fueled second wave that swept the country earlier this year.

As the nation’s top tourist destination – and the site of activities for Indonesia’s G20 presidency – reopening Bali was a first big step for its residents, ever since tourism earnings dried up and decimated the local economy.

“Bali’s economy has slumped during this pandemic. We really hope it will soon go back to normal,” said Putu Astawa, the head of the Bali Tourism Agency.

Bali Governor I Wayan Koster said that while there had been at least 20,000 hotel bookings for November so far, the province would not just rush into it.

“We shouldn’t be in a hurry [to relax restrictions], as we’re still in the midst of a pandemic,” he told reporters at the airport later that day. “The reopening of international tourism should be carried out in a prudential manner. Let’s not let it become counterproductive and cause the number of COVID-19 cases to rise again.” - Jakarta Post/ANN

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Indonesia , Bali , Reopening , Torurism , Cautious , Approach

   

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