Despite officials just weeks ago insisting Bali would reopen to international visitors in under a month, the tropical island’s governor has announced it will remain closed.
Bali’s provincial governor, Wayan Koster, said the decision had been made following news Indonesia will continue to ban its citizens from travelling overseas until at least the end of 2020.
“The government is still prohibiting its citizens from traveling abroad at least until the end of 2020,” Koster said in a statement, as reported by The Jakarta Post.
“In line with the policy, we also cannot open the gate to international travellers until the end of 2020 as the situation in Indonesia, including Bali, is not yet safe to welcome them.”
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), Indonesia in the last seven days to 24 August reported 14,030 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Indonesia’s Health Ministry reported 1,877 new cases for Monday, 63 of which were recorded in Bali.
Koster noted that “Australia, whose citizens travel the most to Bali, is only planning to allow its citizens to travel in 2021”.
“This is also the case for China, Korea, Japan and many European countries,” he said.
Around 80 per cent of Bali’s economy is reliant on tourism. Koster revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic had badly hit the province’s local economy, which contracted 10.9 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, according to The Jakarta Post.
At least 2,667 people who work in the tourism sector have also lost their job, according to The Jakarta Post, and 73,631 people have been forced to take unpaid leave.
However, since reopening its border to domestic travellers, Bali has reportedly seen an increase in tourist arrivals of more than 100 per cent.
Koster said the island’s reopening to domestic tourists had been successful so far with “no increase in new cases of COVID-19, no new clusters of COVID-19 cases”.
The news comes after Koster in July said the provincial government would re-evaluate its plan on opening the border for international tourists “by the end of August” for an aimed opening date of 11 September.
Those plans were given a further shot-in-the-arm by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, who earlier this month said Bali was on track to reopen in September.
However, Koster has previously made it clear that he favours a hardline approach on keeping the island closed to international tourism, telling a meeting in June that his government would follow Singapore in its response to reopening.
“Singapore in December did not accept other citizens and its citizens were prohibited from leaving, so I think almost all countries should follow this protocol,” he said.
“We will not be provoked by pokes so we quickly open tourism. I am not in a position to follow the complaints from a number of tourism actors who want to open too quickly.”
“This must be done slowly.”
Speaking to Travel Weekly, the Visit Indonesia Tourism Office said the health and safety of travellers and the local community had guided the recent decision by Bali’s provincial government to keep its borders closed.
“Previous announcements about the opening for international tourists and a possible bubble reflect market demand to travel to Bali and a desire to manage the economic health of an island dependent on tourism,” Visit Indonesia Tourism Office, Australia, country manager Miriam Tulevski said.
“Destination border openings remain fluid and sensitive as we adapt to living with COVID-19.
At present, Bali provincial government and central government are implementing cleanliness, health and safety protocols and focusing on domestic tourism,” she said.
Featured image source: iStock/Oleh_Slobodeniuk