DENPASAR (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): The lacklustre response to Bali’s reopening, with few tourists keen to be locked up in a hotel room for five days, is forcing the government to think outside the box.
It now wants to allow foreigners to spend the five days of mandatory quarantine aboard boats off the coast of Bali. Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said the island-province had received requests from tourists and industry players that were interested in a five-day quarantine at sea, where visitors would be able to enjoy outdoor activities, such as diving and swimming.
“[This is especially important] as the winter holiday period from December to March is approaching,” he said during an online press conference on Monday (Oct 18).
Meanwhile, the Ministry's undersecretary for tourism products, Rizki Handayani, said her team was coordinating with the Health Ministry to evaluate and certify ships that had been booked by tourists.
“The ships’ operators say they are ready and have no problem with not docking for five days,” she said during the same conference. Ngadiman Sudiaman, CEO at online water transportation marketplace cGO, said the liveaboard option would revive the marine tourism industry and put thousands of ships and pinisi (traditional Indonesian sailing boats) back to work.
“This is a great policy. It can help bring back revenue to ship owners,” he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, adding that it would also accelerate the tourism industry's recovery.
“Demand is still low, but I’m sure this [option] could be an attractive alternative for foreign tourists as they can feel the vacation ambiance during quarantine,” Ngadiman added.
Bali’s border was reopened on Oct 14 to welcome foreign travelers from select countries. However, the island has yet to see tourism return to its former glory.
Bali Deputy Governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati and the provincial tourism agency set a modest target of around 250 foreigners visiting Bali this month.
Despite the reopening, travellers entering Bali need to present a negative Covid-19 test result along with proof of vaccination and undergo a five-day quarantine in designated hotels at their own expense, among other requirements.
The Bali administration has prepared 35 quarantine hotels, located in Ubud in Gianyar regency, Nusa Dua in Badung regency and Sanur, Denpasar, all three of which are marked as “green zones”, or areas with low Covid-19 case numbers.
Thailand has announced it will admit tourists without the need for quarantine, but Sandiaga said Indonesia would not be following suit anytime soon.
“We are not opposed to the idea of lifting the quarantine requirement, but for now, our focus is on reopening tourism with quarantine,” he said, adding that Indonesia would start considering opening the islands of Bali and Riau for vaccinated tourists with no quarantine once the ministry had “data to back it up”.
“We would like to remind everyone that we are in the middle of a pandemic, and we want to make sure that health and safety are our priority until the pandemic is over,” Sandiaga added.