Dzulfiqar Fathur Rahman, Jakarta – The government is preparing to reopen Bali to international tourism, but the plan hinges on the island's COVID-19 situation, a ministry spokesman has said.
Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry spokesman Prabu Revolusi said the government aimed to be ready to reopen tourism on the island at any time but that COVID-19 remained the main consideration.
"We are prepared, but it's just about how Bali can control COVID-19 cases," Prabu told The Jakarta Post on Dec. 11, adding that no date had been set for the reopening.
Bali confirmed 72 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, bringing the cumulative case count to 15,433, according to data from the national COVID-19 task force.
Prabu said that if new daily cases ceased to appear in the province, it was possible the island could be reopened soon. The ministry was awaiting further instruction from President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
Tourism has been one of the sectors hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak has supressed travel demand and has forced people to stay at home to curb transmission.
Tourism accounts for more than half of Bali's economy, and the island recorded a 12.28 percent year-on-year (yoy) contraction in its gross regional product in the third quarter, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS).
The province lost an estimated Rp 48.5 trillion (US$3.4 billion) in tourism revenue from March to July, according to data from the Bali Tourism Agency.
Meanwhile, 70 percent of the 326,000 small and medium enterprises (SME) in the province's food and beverage and creative economy sectors have closed. The rest have reported a 50 percent drop in revenue, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has noted.
UNWTO recently concluded its first in-person visit to Bali since the start of pandemic in December. It hosted a workshop on resuming international tourism in Bali that concluded with the government setting out plans for a phased approach to welcome international tourists to Bali, a Dec. 8 UNWTO press release read.
UNWTO Asia and Pacific director Harry Hwang, who led a delegation to Bali for an on-site assessment, claimed that Bali was ready to welcome international tourists before Christmas, based on the enforcement of health and safety measures devised by the Indonesian government and the Bali administration.
Bali previously aimed to reopen to international visitors by Sept. 11, but the plan was postponed because of health and safety considerations, as well as travel restrictions imposed in many countries.
Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry secretary Ni Wayan Giri Adnyani said foreign tourists were concerned about health protocols and more interested in short-haul trips without connecting flights.
"Many countries are also still imposing restrictions on their citizens for international travel," Giri said on Thursday on the sidelines of the Bali Democracy Forum.
To assuage incoming tourists' concerns about health measures, the government has set up a cleanliness, health, safety and environmental (CHSE) certification for tourist destinations.
By Nov. 28, the government had issued CHSE certificates to 315 hotels and 351 restaurants in Bali, according to UNWTO.
According to Hariyadi Sukamdani, chairman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), even if the government reopened Bali before the end of the year, it would be too late to bring in a large number of foreign tourists as they usually made plans long before leaving. The association was previously expecting the reopening in October.
The PHRI is pinning its hopes on the incoming holiday season. While some businesses have yet to reopen, the association is expecting many to return to operation to accommodate local tourism during the holidays.
"The year-end holidays will also have a huge impact. Domestic tourists will be the ones who come in at the end of the year," Hariyadi told the Post on Dec. 11.
– Dian Septiari contributed to this story