Ni Komang Erviani, Denpasar, Bali – Bali tourism stakeholders have rebuffed an online report in a British tabloid suggesting that the resort island had become a "ghost town" due to a decline in the number of Chinese tourists following Indonesia's travel ban.
The Indonesian government imposed a ban on all flights to and from mainland China on Feb. 5 amid fears of the novel coronavirus spreading to the country.
"It's a hoax," Bali Tourism Agency head Putu Astawa told journalists on Monday, after meeting with industry players in the provincial capital of Denpasar.
Astawa was referring to an article published on Saturday in the Mail Online titled "Bali is transformed from tourist Mecca to a ghost town as Chinese tourists are banned because of the spread of coronavirus".
The article said that Bali's "airport and city streets are lifeless" and that "shopping centres have been left empty" following the indefinite travel ban.
While Astawa confirmed that Bali had seen a decline in the number of Chinese tourist arrivals, he said that tourist arrivals from other countries remained stable.
"The declining number of tourist arrivals only [affects] the China market, or around 25 to 27 percent of total tourist arrivals. Other markets are still on schedule and no cancellations [have been made] so far," he said.
Bali Hotel Association chairman Ricky Putra agreed with Astawa, saying that "tourists from other countries are still coming to Bali".
After Australia, China contributed the second largest number of foreign tourist arrivals in Bali in 2019, with Statistic Indonesia (BPS) records showing that 1.1 million of 6.3 million foreign tourists to Bali were from China.
Ricky said that in terms of economic benefits, tourists from European countries, Australia and the United States actually contributed more income to the province because they usually stayed in Bali longer than Chinese tourists.
Tourists from China typically stayed four to five days while European, Australian and American tourists generally stayed two to four weeks on the island resort, he said.
"This means that some 500,000 Chinese tourists are equal to around 120,000 to 150,000 European tourists," he said, referring to the average duration of stay.
The travel ban covers all flights to and from China and temporarily bans the visa-free and visa-on-arrival facilities for Chinese nationals. It also prevents all travelers who have stayed at least two weeks in mainland China from visiting or transiting in Indonesia.
The ban was imposed as a measure to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, Hubei province, which has killed more than 1,000 people in mainland China and spread to 28 countries to date.
Astawa, however, remained optimistic that Bali's tourism would stay strong despite the ban, especially since no confirmed cases of the coronavirus had been detected on the resort island.
No confirmed cases have been recorded in Indonesia. "The government has taken various measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Indonesia, including banning flights to and from mainland China as well as installing more thermal scanners at the airport," he said.
Tourism stakeholders in Bali, Astawa added, were also trying to attract more visitors from other countries to the island while coordinating with airlines to reroute flights that had connected Bali with Chinese cities to other countries instead.
"We will attract more tourists from Europe, Australia and the US," he said. "We will create a cheap tourist package [with] discounted airfare, hotel rates, travel agent [fees] and tourist attraction [tickets]. We are still coordinating with other stakeholders on the plan."