Bali reopens to foreign tourists, but without flights
DENPASAR, Indonesia, Oct 14 (Reuters) – Indonesia’s holiday island of Bali reopened to foreign tourists after 18 months of pandemic hiatus on Thursday, but the island is lacking one crucial ingredient: international flights.
The government recently announced Bali’s reopening after a sharp fall in coronavirus cases since July, when Indonesia was Asia’s COVID-19 epicentre.
But new visitors from overseas were nowhere to be seen on Thursday.
Though the island’s Ngurah Rai international airport has carried out exercises to prepare for tourists to return, it is not expecting much to happen soon.
“We hope that by end of October at the latest there will be incoming flights, whether it’s a charter or commercial flight as signs of the start of tourism recovery in Bali.”
He added that he had received reports that hotels on the island have started to receive bookings by foreign visitors, mainly from Europe, for November visits.
Bali reopens – Known for its surfing, temples, waterfalls and nightlife, Bali drew 6.2 million foreign visitors in 2019, the year before COVID-19 struck, but tight pandemic border restrictions have devastated tourism, which is worth 54% of its economy.
In downtown Kuta, just off its famous beach, shops and bars were open on Thursday but with only a few customers, while taxi drivers waited outside.
“We’re really destitute,” said driver Yohanan, 52, waiting on the curb. “We’re hoping tourists can come here, but not one has.”
The government’s preparations could be the reason.
Bali reopens – But Bali’s reopening plan is not yet matched by demand. I Putu Astawa of the island’s tourism agency said hotel reservations were few, adding that the timing was “so sudden”.
Indonesia also requires medical insurance coverage of up to $70,000 for COVID-19 treatment.
Ida Bagus Purwa Sidemen, of the hotel and restaurants association in Bali, said that while the island was ready for tourists, it “does not mean all the guests suddenly visit”.
Bali reopens to foreign tourists, but without flights – Reporting by Sultan Anshori in Denpasar and Agustinus Beo Da Costa in Jakarta with additional reporting by Bernadette Christina and Stanley Widianto; writing by Kate Lamb and Fransiska Nangoy; editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel and Mark Heinrich
Looking for a beautiful beachfront villa in North Bali?