Bali reopens to foreign tourists
by Mathias Hariyadi

As the island reopens today, doubts remain among local residents. It will take several months before things get back to normal. Tourism represents 54 per cent of Bali's economy. Only 21 per cent of all Indonesians have been fully vaccinated.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Starting today, the island of Bali will welcome tourists again.

Mandatory health protocols remain in place, to be respected upon arrival, but flights from 19 countries are now allowed, including Japan, New Zealand, China, South Korea, Australia, and several European and Gulf countries.

Famous for its spectacular beaches, surfing, nightlife, Hindu temples and religious tolerance, the “Island of the Gods” attracted 6.2 million foreigners a year before the pandemic.

The local tourism industry represented 54 per cent of the island’s economy; however, only 35 tourists visited the island between January and June 2021.

Since March 2020, dozens of restaurants, nightclubs, hotels and entertainment venues have been forced to close due to lockdowns.

Now foreign tourists coming to Bali will have to submit to eight days of self-quarantine in one of 38 government designated hotels.

In Denpasar, the island’s capital, some residents shared their doubts with AsiaNews.

“It is indeed true that social conditions in Bali are conducive to a return of tourists, but this will take some time," said Linda, a civil engineer by profession.

“For my part,” said Hermanta, owner of several restaurants, “as a local foodservices business provider, the reopening is welcome. But the months from October to December are considered low season in Bali. The peak season for international and local holidaymakers will be around Christmas.”

Blasius Manuk, a Catholic activist, explained that things will be really back to normal when window shopping fills the most popular tourist spots like Seminyak, Legian and Kuta.

“As long as businesses are closed and Ngurah Rai International Airport lies idle, there is no real recovery,” explained Manuk, speaking from Lombok Island, another well-known tourist site in West Nusa Tenggara province, an hour's flight from Bali.

Tourists could return after 70 per cent of the Balinese population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, said Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin, explaining the government's readiness to reopen.

Currently in Indonesia, 37 per cent of the population has received the first dose and just over 21 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Some 1,233 new cases of SARS-CoV-2 were reported in the country.