Editorial Board (The Jakarta Post)
Mon September 27, 2021
When October arrives, we will remember the heinous attacks on Bali in 2001 and 2005 and their devastating effects on the island’s tourism – the backbone of its economy. It took years for Bali to get back on its feet, during which time the government launched a policy of collective days off to speed up the recovery of the country’s most popular tourist destination.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proved more damaging to Bali, which is why the government’s plan to reopen the island to foreign tourists has been greeted with enthusiasm. In fact, there had been increased pressure on the government to implement the policy much sooner, turning a blind eye to the upsurge in infection cases that resulted in strict restrictions on mobility there.
The pandemic has hit Bali hard. Data from Statistics Indonesia (BPS) shows the province’s economy contracted 9.31 percent year-on-year last year, mostly due to its crippled tourism. Foreign tourist arrivals increased six-fold, from 6.2 million in 2019 to just 1 million in 2020 according to BPS, while Bank Indonesia found that 92,000 people employed in tourism had lost their jobs during the same period.
In disclosing the heartwarming news of Bali’s reopening, Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, whom President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had tasked with handling COVID-19 in Java and Bali, cited a report. significant decrease in the number of new cases and hospitalizations. bed occupancy rate. Luhut said the pandemic was under control, as seen with the reproduction rate falling to a record low of less than 1.
Bali and Java remain in the Level 3 Public Activity Restriction (PPKM) category until October 4, pending further notice. The statute allows shopping centers, restaurants and cinemas to operate at half capacity and offices at a quarter of their capacity.
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said reopening Bali could follow the model used by the islands of Phuket and Samui in Thailand, which Vietnam is also considering adopting on its idyllic island of Phu Quoc. The two Thai tourist resorts are limited only to vaccinated foreign tourists from low-risk countries, with no need to quarantine.
Sandiaga also suggested a regional collaboration to form a tourism triangle between Bali, Phuket and Langkawi in Malaysia. Langkawi has so far only been open to domestic tourists. Indonesia is also considering accepting travelers from South Korea, Japan, Singapore and New Zealand when tourist destinations like Bali resume operations.
Although no specific date for Bali to reopen has been set, the government must ensure that everyone involved in tourism has been vaccinated. The double-dose vaccination rate on the island has exceeded 70 percent, but increasing that figure would better protect both the local population and their guests.
The government’s choice of a gradual reopening instead of a complete reopening of Bali deserves to be saluted. The central government’s planned end-of-year holiday travel ban and the policy of even-numbered odd-numbered license plates the Bali government will enforce will prevent crowds, which would otherwise kill efforts to curb infections.
Even though we yearn for Bali, we have to be careful because we have yet to win this COVID-19 war.