Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – Chinese tourists are flocking to Bali after a three-year Covid-related hiatus, with hundreds of vacationers from Shenzhen landing on the Island of Gods over the weekend.
The I Gusti Ngurah International Airport in Bali on Sunday saw the arrival of 210 Chinese tourists. These travelers flew on a Lion Air Boeing from Shenzhen, with the direct charter flight taking nearly five hours.
Bali even welcomed these tourists with flower garlands – as Chinese people finally no longer had to postpone their travel plans after their government finally lifted Covid-19 border curbs earlier this year. Indonesia also reported that many of the recently arrived Chinese travelers were rich tourists staying in five-star hotels.
"The tourists who have just arrived from Shenzhen are of higher quality. They are excited to see Bali after years of not visiting the island," Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno told reporters on Tuesday.
"They are mostly middle-to-upper families. These tourists plan on seeing Nusa Dua, the beach, and other favorite tourist destinations in Bali," Sandiaga said.
According to the Tourism Ministry, Indonesia is aiming to draw at least 255,300 Chinese tourists into the country in 2023. Indonesia has set an ambitious goal of attracting up to 7.4 million foreign tourists this year.
Sandiaga said Indonesia would likely have to rely on arrivals of Chinese tourists, among others, to reach that 7.4-million target.
"Lion Air Group has announced that it would add not just more charter flights, but also scheduled flights [from China]," Sandiaga said.
The Shenzhen-to-Bali route currently operates once a week. The Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies Association (Asita) has pushed for more direct flights from China.
"There are currently only a few direct flights [from China], but Asita has requested direct flights from Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. And this will likely attract more tourists from China," Sandiaga said.
Bali remains top of mind among Chinese people when they travel to Indonesia.
Bali Deputy Governor Tjokorda Artha Ardhana Sukawati attributed this to, among others, Balinese culture which is also influenced by that of the Chinese. China is a large land mass, so these tourists are also looking to spend their holiday on Bali's beaches.
The Tourism Ministry revealed that Indonesia's tourist-friendly visa registration and visa-on-arrival were some of the reasons why Bali is attractive to Chinese tourists. As well as the resort island's spas and cuisine.
Not Just Bali
It is not just Bali that is getting Chinese tourists' attention. Sandiaga told reporters that Manado – the capital city of North Sulawesi – is also popular among Chinese travelers. North Sulawesi's Bunaken Island and Likupang have also caught the eyes of Chinese tourists.
Last week, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said that Chinese tourists would come in droves to Manado in February. According to Jokowi, Indonesia has its doors wide open to tourists from any country, including China.
Indonesia will also not treat Chinese tourists differently from other travelers from other nations, despite China seeing an uptick in Covid-19 cases.
"Once again, we are open to all tourists from any country. We do see many of these travelers are coming from China, and health protocols are of paramount importance. China has already screened its travelers before leaving the country, so no need to worry. Our herd immunity has also reached 98.5 percent," Jokowi said.