Mardika Parama, Jakarta – The government, along with businesses, need to reassure tourists of the health and the safety aspects of diving tourism to attract visitors after the COVID-19 outbreak, an international diving association has stated.
Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Asia Pacific Territory director Paul Tosh Tanner stated that while tourists had held back from visiting Indonesia's diving spots, particularly in Bali, due to border closures, health and safety played a substantial role in their future travel intentions.
"People will come to Indonesia once they know they are safe. Before, people were looking for adventures and risk-taking, now, families and independent travelers are looking for something safe," Tanner said during a broadcast event called Indonesia Dive Tourism Market Updates 2020 on Monday.
Diving tourism is one of the pulls for foreign visitors to Indonesia. Almost 30 percent of the destinations included in the government's 10 priority destinations are marine and diving tourism spots, according to the Tourism Ministry. Bali and Raja Ampat in West Papua are among the country's notable diving spots.
According to a recent survey conducted by global diving marketing and research firm Cline, the diving tourism industry had seen a 56.8 percent year-on-year (yoy) drop in gross revenue in the first half of 2020, pressured by the global health crisis.
Indonesia's foreign visits also dipped 68.17 percent to 3.41 million visits between January and August this year, compared to 10.71 million visitors in the same period last year, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data.
Tanner said the global association was currently focusing on marketing campaigns and providing diving tour providers with online training to help them prepare for the projected post-COVID-19 pandemic tourism boom.
"As soon as people can obtain a visa on arrival, they will immediately go back to Bali. Everyone is desperate to travel and therefore it will go up again as soon as it's safe," he said.
The Bali administration in August announced the postponement of its plans to reopen Bali to international tourists in September amid health concerns.
German dive tour operator Aquaventure Tauchreisen founder Maik Solf during the discussion said European and German divers were expecting health protocol implementation during their diving activities in Indonesia.
"It's the simple things like using signs to keep distance, maintaining hygiene and mask use. Transparency and honesty are important to gain trust," he said.
Solf said his travel agency had brought in 6,000 German tourists for diving tours in Indonesia this year as of Monday, a significant decline from 32,000 German tourists in 2019.
For American divers, travel insurance is also an important aspect that needs to be provided for tourists when they visit Indonesia, Colorado-based travel company One World Dive and Travel specialist Brian Miller said.
"Travel insurance is something that travelers are expected to have, where their medical expenses are covered if they contract COVID-19 in Indonesia," he said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for international dive travel has remained relatively high for American divers, with 60 percent of their clients willing to travel worldwide this year, said Miller.
The Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry's tourism product deputy Rizki Handayani said the government had created a Cleanliness, Health, Safety and Environmental Sustainability (CHSE) protocol for diving tourism.
"We hope this guide will become a reference for diving tourism players when the guests are returning [to Indonesia]. With this guide, we can boost the quality standard of national tourism, enhance the trust of domestic and global tourists, and slowly recover our tourism sector," Rizki said in a statement.
The ministry is also running an Earth conservation program to clean up beaches and transplant the coral reef in a bid to support the marine tourism rebound.