08/20/2020, 14.35
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Bali: after losing billions to COVID-19, international tourism to start again on 11 Sept

by Mathias Hariyadi

The novel coronavirus pandemic sunk the economy of the "land of the Gods". Losses in tourism are greater than those that followed the 2002 terror attack. Rapid tests are planned at the airport. For one resident, it will take “at least four, five years to return to normal”. Many Australians are still stranded on the island.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Bali, better known as the "land of the Gods", became over time Indonesia’s favourite destination for local and foreign visitors. hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, it could now reopen to international tourism by 11 September.

Both local and central government authorities have sought to limit the devastating impact caused by the viral outbreak on the island’s economy. Economic losses have been "far greater" than those caused by the deadly terror attack of October 2002, which left more than 200 people dead.

The authorities are expected to reopen Indonesia’s airspace and allow international flights in the next few weeks. Bali Governor I Wayan Koster said that the tourism industry will be able to restart at full capacity on 11 September.

This is the third stage of a gradual reopening plan. The first stage came in July when some lockdown measures were lifted, allowing people to do their daily activities. In early August, the second stage began with Indonesians allowed to visit the island.

In order to contain the pandemic and avoid outside transmission, Indonesian authorities have prepared a series of rapid tests for passengers arriving at the international airport.

However, government officials and ordinary Indonesians are very much concerned about the economic consequences of the pandemic: "It will take four or five years to get back to normal,” said Respatia, a Bali resident, speaking to AsiaNews.

The preparations to welcome tourists back "are still underway. There is a lot of activity in hotels and restaurants ahead of the official reopening,” he added. "But the new normal will take a long time to revive the tourism industry and return it to the glories of the past".

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, indonesia’s tourism sector was brought to its knees. Bali is one of its most popular destinations as it offers an excellent mix of Hindu religious traditions and modern secular culture.

So far, for the island, monthly losses have reached US$ 65 million, Deputy Governor Tjok Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati reported. Locals "have had to change their lifestyle,” he explained, “and earn money in new and different ways, converting themselves into farmers and fishermen".

According to health authorities, the island has had 4,220 novel coronavirus cases so far; of these, 3,701 have recovered with 51 known deaths, 49 locals and two foreign tourists.

Bali is confronted by another emergency related to the tourism issue, namely the presence of scores of Australian tourists stranded by the pandemic, unable to go home because of travel restrictions and flights cancellations.

Before the viral outbreak, it was easy to travel from Perth (Western Australia) to Bali. A direct flight took three and half hours compared to five hours to Sydney, eastern Australia.

Today, Perth residents still on the island have to pay A$ 1,550 (US$ 1,110) for a three-leg economy flight home via Singapore.

A one-way economy ticket from Denpasar to Sydney on Thursday costs about A$ 5,300 (US$ 3,800) for a four-leg trip that transits through Taiwan and China.

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