Bali reopens to tourists, but no direct international flights yet | Coronavirus pandemic News

The Indonesian island of Bali reopened its doors to foreign tourists on Thursday, 18 months after the borders closed, but without any international flights.

The island has built much of its prosperity on tourism, and the extended shutdown has left many people out of work and businesses, including hotels and restaurants, have closed.

The island’s Ngurah Rai International Airport has run simulations to prepare for the return of tourists, but doesn’t expect much to happen anytime soon.

“So far there is no timetable,” said Taufan Yudhistira, spokesperson for the airport, of international flights. In the absence of direct flights, foreign visitors will have to pass through Jakarta.

The government is eager to revive Bali’s beleaguered tourism industry after a sharp drop in coronavirus cases since July, when Indonesia was the epicenter of COVID-19 in Asia.

But details on the reopening, such as visa requirements and the countries to which they apply, have so far been patchy.

Indonesia only confirmed the 19 eligible countries in a statement Wednesday evening, including China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, as well as several countries in Western and Middle Europe. -East.

The move follows Thailand’s calibrated reopening that began in July with great fanfare, with the islands of Samui and Phuket welcoming vaccinated tourists from several countries, with hundreds on opening days.

Vietnam plans to welcome foreigners to its island of Phu Quoc next month. With 73 percent of its tourism workers already vaccinated, the island of Boracay in the Philippines is also preparing to reopen for foreign tourists.

But some representatives of the Indonesian tourism industry say Bali’s plan to reopen has not yet matched demand.

I Putu Astawa of the Bali Tourism Agency said hotel reservations were low.

“Not yet because the timing is so sudden,” he said when asked about a spike in bookings. “They need time to deal with visas and flights.”

However, the country’s national airline Garuda Indonesia announced plans to add more flights between Jakarta and Bali last week, citing growth in domestic tourist traffic.

In addition to requiring visitors to Bali to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Indonesia has stipulated that they must spend their first five days in quarantine, a measure other countries have decided to phase out.

“We are ready to accept tourists who visit Bali, but that certainly does not mean that all the guests suddenly visit Bali,” said Ida Bagus Purwa Sidemen, executive director of the island’s hotels and restaurants association.

“At the earliest, by the end of the year, we can assess whether the situation has improved.”

In a video posted to the President’s Secretariat’s YouTube channel to mark the reopening on Thursday, Bali Gov. I Wayan Koster said boosting tourism was essential for the island.

“It is in our best interest that tourism picks up because 54% of Bali’s economy is based on the tourism sector,” he said.

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