Jakarta – The government has decided to launch a pilot project for the Work from Bali program in Nusa Dua, an upscale resort area on the tourist island, to encourage domestic visitors to come to the island, the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment said on Saturday.
The Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has floated the idea for civil servants, and state-owned enterprises workers to move temporarily to Bali and worked from there, making use of thousands of hotel rooms and facilities currently empty due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The number of foreign tourists visiting Bali dropped 83 percent to 1 million last year from 6.2 million a year earlier after the government imposed travel restrictions to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since then, the government prioritizes Bali for a vaccination program, hoping to reopen the island quickly. Health Ministry data showed close to one in three people in Bali has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the highest vaccination rate in the country.
Still, tourists remained reluctant to return to Bali. Only 10 percent of Bali's hotel rooms were occupied in March, data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) showed. While it recovered from the pandemic low of 2 percent last June, Bali's hotel occupancy ratio has yet to reach its pre-pandemic average of 59.5 percent.
"The main objective of the WFB program is to increase trust in domestic tourists," Hermin Esti Setyowati, the assistant deputy for human resource, tourism, and creative economy development at the ministry, said in a statement.
Nusa Dua's enclosed area and single management system made it ideal for implementing control on the project, which the ministry hoped could be replicated in other areas in Bali soon.
"It is also hoped that the arrival of state civil servants and SOEs' workers will boost Bali's economy, which slumped the most during this pandemic," Hermin said.
Bali's tourism-dependent economy shrank 9.85 percent in the first quarter this year from the same quarter a year ago, slightly recovering from a 12,2 percent slump in the fourth quarter. In comparison, Indonesia's economy only declined by 0.7 percent last quarter, with every other province in Indonesia fares better than Bali.
The Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment has signed a memorandum of understanding with seven ministries and government institutions for the Work from Bali program.
Arie Prasetyo, the operations and business innovation director of the Indonesian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), the state-owned enterprises that manage the Nusa Dua resort area, said the company has prepared to ensure safety, comfort, and health of Work from Bali program's participants.
"All hotels have been CHSE-certified," Arie said, referring to the hospitality industry's pandemic-time standard for cleanliness, health, safety, and environmental sustainability (CHSE).
Arie said the Nusa Dua area has an integrated end-to-end service that ensures visitors remain within the health-protocol bubble since their arrival at the airport.
He also said that by Saturday, all hospitality workers in the Nusa Dua area had received their second dose of vaccine.
Data from the Health Ministry also showed that the island had injected the Covid-19 vaccine first dose to 1.3 million health workers, service sector workers, public servants, the elderly, and some, 79 percent higher than the province target. More than 597,000 among them have received their second dose.