Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

Bali has opened to international travelers for the first time in more than a year.

It is a big step on the Indonesian holiday island and welcomes tourists back.

Travelers must now be vaccinated, quarantined in a hotel for five days and follow strict visa requirements under new entry rules for travelers.

But authorities said no international flights were expected on Thursday after the island opened to travelers from 19 countries.

“We are ready and waiting for international flights,” said airport spokesman Taufan Yudhistira.

Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport is now open to travelers from 19 countries, including South Korea, China, Japan, France, the United Arab Emirates, Dubai and New Zealand, authorities said.

The partial reopening did not include Australians, a major source of the millions of tourists who regularly flocked to the island before the pandemic.

Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the prime minister leading the COVID-19 response to Java and Bali, said foreign arrivals should come from countries that met a World Health Organization criterion, including having their COVID-19 cases under control.

“We have to do this with caution because we have to be careful,” Pandjaitan said.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo credited Bali’s high vaccination rate for the decision to reopen.

He said more than 80 percent of the island’s population had been fully vaccinated

The country’s COVID-19 case load has also dropped significantly.

Indonesia has had about 1,000 cases a day in the last week, after peaking about 56,000 daily in July.

At the beginning of the pandemic, foreign tourist revenues fell six times from 6.2 million in 2019 to only 1 million in 2020.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic, 92,000 people employed in tourism lost their jobs.

Statistics in Indonesia’s data showed the island’s economy fell 9.31 percent last year.

A tropical beach with a volcano looming in the background
A business owner in Bali says the pandemic has shattered tourism.(Reuters: Nyimas Laula)

After closing the island to all visitors early in the pandemic, Bali reopened to Indonesians from other parts of the country in the middle of last year.

But an increase in cases in July, driven by the Delta variant, once again emptied the island’s normally busy beaches and streets.

Authorities restricted public activities, closed the airport and closed all shops, bars, restaurants, tourist attractions and many other places on the island. It reopened to domestic travelers in August.

Sang Putu Wibawa, general manager at Bali’s Tandjung Sari Hotel, said only two of the 40 rooms were occupied on average, and he hoped the reopening would help the occupancy rate return to normal.

“This outbreak has hammered the local economy … we are very excited to welcome foreign guests by adhering to health protocols.”

In total, 59.4 million of Indonesia’s 270 million people are fully vaccinated, and a further 43.2 million are partially vaccinated.

Indonesia has confirmed more than 4.2 million cases and 142,811 deaths due to COVID-19, most in Southeast Asia.

Putu Astawa, head of the Bali Tourism Office, said there were no flights after the opening because airlines needed time to plan flights to Bali.

He added that tourists also needed time to arrange travel documents such as tickets, insurance and virus tests as well as their five-day quarantine stay.

He predicted that new visitors would start arriving in early November.

ABC / wires

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