Pererenan, Bali – Before the pandemic, Dicky, who like many Indonesians has only one name, made up to $ 20 a day peddling handcrafted shell jewelry to tourists on the crowded beaches of the southwest coast of Bali.
But nearly two months after Indonesia reopened to visitors from China and 18 other countries, the international tourists Dicky once relied on for his sales are still scarce.
âI came here at eight in the morning and walked the beach all day. I try and try and try but I haven’t sold a single piece all day, âhe told Al Jazeera as a blindingly beautiful blood red sun set over the Indian Ocean at Pererenan Beach last weekend. “I don’t understand why more tourists don’t come now that Bali is open again.”
Dicky is not the only person on the island who is puzzled that no international flights have landed in Bali since the international airport reopened on October 14. The island’s COVID-19 readings – roughly the lowest on record since the start of the pandemic – only add to the conundrum.
According to the Indonesian National Council for Disaster Management, the seven-day average for new positive cases in Bali now stands at 11, the seven-day average for deaths is only one while the rate of seven-day positivity for those tested is 0.17% – well below the WHO minimum 1 percent threshold for the territories it classifies as having the virus under control. The number of vaccines is also well above the global average of 42.7%, with more than 77% of all adults fully vaccinated in Bali, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Health.
But six weeks after the country reopened, only 153 people worldwide had applied for tourist visas, according to the Indonesian Immigration Bureau.
The low level of interest reflects a survey by the International Air Transport Association which showed that 84% of people have no interest in vacationing in destinations requiring quarantine, and Indonesia imposes mandatory quarantine in hotels which was recently extended in response to the Omicron variant.
“Even with a short 40s, no one will come to Bali,” said Professor I Gusti Ngurah Mahardika of Udayana University, the island’s oldest virologist.
Confusing, complex, ever-changing and sometimes contradictory government messages and immigration policy keep international tourists away as well.
Thailand has reintroduced free visa on arrival for tourists, but those wishing to travel to Indonesia must apply for a visa at foreign embassies or consulates and need a travel agency to vouch. And they must show proof of accommodation booked for the duration of their stay in Indonesia – a surefire way to quench the urge to travel of any intrepid traveler.
“There is no clear statement from the government on what it is trying to achieve, a process to get there or simple guidelines for potential tourists,” Bali-based statistician Jackie Pomeroy wrote on her popular “Bali Covid-19 Update “. The Facebook page.
And in a blow to the domestic tourism sector which saw up to 20,000 Indonesians visiting the island daily in November, restrictions were reintroduced for the period from December 24 to January 2.
Beach clubs, restaurants and nightclubs cannot host Christmas events or celebrate New Years, while voices on social media fear all leisure travel to Indonesia will be banned during peak period holidays.
Just under a month ago, Professor Gusti advised Indonesia to completely drop quarantine for fully vaccinated international travelers who test negative before departure and upon arrival. But that was before the WHO identified Omicron as a worrying variant, throwing a radioactive key in the long-awaited restart of the global travel industry.
On November 28, Indonesia, echoing the measures of the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, banned arrivals of non-residents of South Africa or any of the eight other African countries. . It also banned travelers from Hong Kong, which has reported its fourth case of the Omicron variant. Still, he failed to ban travelers from the UK, where 246 cases of the variant were reported as of Sunday – the kind of instinctive politics that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called “the apartheid of the people. trips â.
Indonesia has also extended the quarantine from three to seven days for arrivals from all other countries. Less than a week later, it was extended again, this time to 10, the longest quarantine Indonesia has seen since the start of the pandemic. The tough new rule forced Garuda, the country’s national air carrier, to cut its first scheduled international flight to Bali in 20 months from Haneda Airport in Japan on December 5. The following weekly flights have also been removed from the airline’s website.
The developments have dampened Bali’s hopes of reviving tourism this year, which accounted for around 60% of economic activity before the pandemic. The island’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell just under 3% in the third quarter, after contracting nearly 10% in 2020.
Indonesia’s national GDP grew 3.5% over the same period, making Bali the hardest-hit Indonesian province from an economic standpoint for two years in a row.
The global tourism monster that once fueled Bali is unlikely to rebound to 2019 levels until 2024, according to management consultancy McKinsey & Company which made the prediction in June based on various scenarios that examined the effect of the containment of the virus.
Observers in Bali feel the same.
âHistory has shown that Bali is very resilient to disasters, but it will take another year or two for the island to recover,â said Mark Ching, director of Tamora Group, a major real estate developer on the island. âIt’s not just about opening borders. People need to feel safe before they travel again.