DENPASAR, October 14 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s holiday island of Bali reopened to foreign tourists after an 18-month pandemic on Thursday, but the island lacks a crucial ingredient: international flights.
Tourist-dependent Bali is scheduled to reopen on Thursday, and although its international airport Ngurah Rai has conducted simulations preparing tourists to return, it does not expect that to happen very soon.
“So far there is no timetable,” said Taufan Yudhistira, a spokesman for the airport.
Indonesia’s tight immigration measures during the pandemic have devastated the island with extensive closures of hotels, shops and businesses.
The government is eager to revive Bali’s besieged tourism industry in response to a sharp drop in new coronavirus cases since July, when Indonesia was Asia’s COVID-19 epicenter.
But details of the reopening, such as visa requirements and which countries they are applying for, have so far been uneven.
Indonesia confirmed only the 19 eligible countries in a statement late Wednesday, which includes China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand and several countries from Western Europe and the Arabian Gulf.
The move follows Thailand’s calibrated reopening, which began in July with great fanfare, with the islands of Samui and Phuket welcome to vaccinated tourists from several countries, with hundreds on the opening days.
Vietnam plans to welcome foreigners to its Phu Quoc island next month.
But some Indonesian representatives of the tourism industry say Bali’s reopening plan is not matched by demand.
In Putu Astawa from the tourist agency Bali said that hotel reservations were few.
“Not yet because the timing is so sudden,” he said when asked about an increase in bookings. “They need time to take care of visas and flights.”
In addition to requiring Bali visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Indonesia has stipulated that they must spend their first five days in quarantine, a measure that competing tourism markets are phasing out.
“We are ready to welcome tourists who visit Bali, but that certainly does not mean that all guests suddenly visit Bali,” said Ida Bagus Purwa Sidemen, CEO of the island’s hotel and restaurant association.
“At the end of the year at the earliest, we can assess whether the situation has improved.”
In a video released on the Presidential Secretariat’s YouTube channel to mark the reopening on Thursday, Bali Governor I Wayan Koster said that reviving tourism was crucial for the island.
“It’s very much in our interest in tourism to recover because 54% of Bali’s economy is dependent on the tourism sector,” he said.
Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina and Sultan Anshori; Writing by Kate Lamb; Editing by Martin Petty
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