Nivell Rayda, Jakarta – Tourism operators in Indonesia's tourism-dependent islands of Bali, Batam and Bintan said they welcome the government's decision to lift the COVID-19 test requirement for inbound travellers who have been fully vaccinated.
"This decision will have a positive impact towards the tourism industry," Mr Djunaidi, the general manager of Cassia Bintan, told CNA on Wednesday (May 18).
Mr Made Suryantala, a tour operator in Bali, echoed the sentiment. "I hope this decision brings even more confidence for tourists to come to Bali."
Thousands of workers on the three islands have been laid off or forced to take a pay cut as hotels, restaurants and tour operators were reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the drastic drop in the number of tourists.
Since the beginning of this year, the three islands are slowly recovering as officials in the country's capital Jakarta introduced a series of relaxations on international travel requirements.
International tourists were allowed to enter Indonesia beginning February and adhered to a COVID-19 testing regime that involved pre-departure tests for all travellers and on-arrival tests for the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated.
The latest relaxation came on Tuesday when President Joko Widodo announced that the country has lifted the COVID-19 test requirement for vaccinated travellers seeking to enter Indonesia.
On Wednesday, the Transport Ministry issued the latest regulation, which lifted the pre-departure test requirement for all travellers, regardless of their vaccination status.
The regulation stated that only unvaccinated and partially vaccinated travellers are required to take an on-arrival polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and undergo quarantine for five days.
Those who show symptoms of a coronavirus infection will also be required to take an on-arrival test, regardless of their vaccination status.
Children under the age of 18 are exempted from the testing regime. However, they are not allowed to travel into the country without the company of their parents or legal guardians.
Decision will boost the economy: Industry players
Mr Tjokorda Bagus Pemayun, chief of the Bali Tourism Agency, welcomed the decision.
"We are really excited about this new policy. This is something that the tourism industry has been asking and something that the government of Bali has been lobbying. It can be very expensive taking the test overseas. Imagine spending that much money for the whole family," he told CNA.
Bali reopened to international tourists from all countries in February. At the time, travellers were required to take pre-departure and on-arrival tests and quarantine for five days.
Later that month, Indonesia and Singapore established a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble between the city state and the islands of Batam and Bintan. Testing was still required at that time.
While Bali's economy has been buoyed by domestic tourists during the pandemic, the same cannot be said for the islands of Batam and Bintan.
The islands, located in Indonesia's Riau Islands province, have been relying on tourists from nearby Singapore and Malaysia who visit the resort islands on weekends.
"If the regulation is fully implemented, I am sure there will be more tourists coming into Batam and Bintan because they usually stay for the weekend and return to Singapore and Malaysia on weekdays," Mr Buralimar, chief of the Riau Islands Tourism Agency, told CNA.
"(The decision) will also help the economy because we are so reliant on people coming in from Singapore and Malaysia. Not only will it help hotels and restaurants, but also taxi drivers, people selling gifts and other small- and medium-size enterprises."
Mr Alpha Eldiansyah, the general manager of Banyan Tree Bintan, said some tourists were reluctant to come to Bintan because of the COVID-19 testing requirement in place.
"People travelling from Singapore, for example, said they feel burdened by the test requirement. Furthermore, our guests don't normally travel alone but travel with their partner or the whole family," he said.
"It is the right move and couldn't have come any sooner. Other countries have implemented similar decisions and they have a positive impact towards their tourism. I hope the same happens to Indonesia as well."
Indonesians also benefit from the decision
Mr Firman Nur, chairman of the Indonesian Haj and Umrah Organisers Association, said the decision will also benefit Indonesians looking to perform the Islamic pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
"The lifting of the requirement will make it easier for pilgrims who are returning to Indonesia because it will reduce the cost that they have to spend.
"Furthermore, it is becoming more difficult to find a PCR lab in Saudi Arabia because the country has been lifting that requirement for a long time now," he said in a statement.
Mdm Nurul Kusnaedi, the owner of a tour operator based in Jakarta, shared the same view.
"Other countries have relaxed their travel requirements and no longer require COVID-19 tests for entering their countries. However, not many Indonesians jumped at this opportunity because they were required to take the tests upon returning, which could be very costly and troublesome," she told CNA.
Mdm Anna Simorangkir, a mother of two, said she had been thinking twice about taking her family for a vacation abroad.
"The cost for a PCR test can reach US$100 overseas which can add up to a lot of money for a family of four," she told CNA.
"I am thrilled about the relaxation. More importantly, I hope this policy means that things in Indonesia are indeed getting better and that the pandemic may soon be over." (CNA/ni)