Pererenan, Bali Before the pandemic, Dicky, who like many Indonesians mentioned just one name, earned up to $ 20 a day to hawk shell jewelry to tourists on the crowded beaches of Bali’s southwest coast.
But almost two months after Indonesia reopened its doors to visitors from China and 18 other countries, the international tourists Dicky once relied on for sales are still few.
“I arrived here at eight in the morning and walked up and down the beach all day. I try, try and try but I have not sold a single piece all day, ”he told Al Jazeera when a dazzlingly beautiful blood-red sun set over the Indian Ocean at Pererenan Beach last weekend. “I do not understand why more tourists are not coming now that Bali is open again.”
Dicky is not the only person on the island who is confused about the fact that not a single international flight has landed in Bali since the international airport reopened on October 14. The island’s COVID-19 statistics – about the lowest recorded since the start of the pandemic – only add to the mystery.
According to Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Council, the seven-day average for new positive cases in Bali now stands at 11, the seven-day average for deaths is just one while the seven-day positivity rate for individuals tested is 0.17. percent is – well below the WHO’s minimum threshold of 1 percent for areas that classify it as the virus under control. Vaccine numbers are also well above the world average of 42.7 percent, with more than 77 percent of all adults being fully vaccinated in Bali, according to Indonesia’s Ministry of Health.
But six weeks after the country reopened, only 153 people around the world applied for tourist visas, according to Indonesia’s Directorate-General for Immigration.
The low level of interest reflects a survey by the International Air Transport Association that showed that 84 percent of people have no interest in holidays at destinations that require quarantine, and Indonesia is drafting a mandatory hotel quarantine that was recently extended in response to the Omicron variant.
“Even with a short quarantine, no one will come to Bali,” said Professor I Gusti Ngurah Mahardika, a professor at Udayana University, the island’s most senior virologist.
Confusing, complex, ever-changing and sometimes contradictory government messages and immigration policies also keep international tourists away.
Thailand has again introduced free visas on arrival for tourists, but those wishing to visit Indonesia must apply for visas at foreign embassies or consulates and need a travel agency to act as sponsor. And they have to provide proof of booked accommodation for the entire length of their stay in Indonesia – a definite way to quench the wanderlust of any intrepid traveler.
“There is no clear statement from the government of what he is trying to achieve, a process to get there, or simple guidelines for prospective tourists,” Bali-based statistician Jackie Pomeroy wrote on her popular ‘Bali Covid-19 Update’ Facebook page.
And in a blow to the domestic tourism sector, which flew to the island daily to 20,000 Indonesians daily in November, restrictions were reintroduced for the period from December 24 to January 2.
Beach clubs, restaurants and nightclubs cannot host Christmas parties or celebrate New Year’s Eve, while voices on social media fear that all leisure trips in Indonesia will be banned during the peak holiday period.
A little less than a month ago, Professor Gusti advised Indonesia to abandon quarantine altogether for fully vaccinated international travelers who test negative before departure and on arrival. But that was before the WHO identified Omicron as a variant of concern, and threw a radioactive wrench into the long-awaited recharge of the world travel industry.
On 28 November, Indonesia, in accordance with measures by the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, banned non-residents of South Africa or any of eight other African countries. It also banned travelers from Hong Kong, who reported its fourth case of the Omicron variant. Yet it did not ban travelers from the UK, where 246 cases of the variant were reported from Sunday – the kind of knee-jerk policy that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described as “travel apartheid”.
Indonesia has also extended the quarantine for arrivals from all other countries from three to seven days. Less than a week later, it was extended again, this time to 10, the longest quarantine period Indonesia has seen since the start of the pandemic. The strict new rule forced Garuda, the country’s national airline, to cancel its first planned international flight to Bali in 20 months from Haneda airport in Japan on December 5. Subsequent weekly flights were also removed from the airline’s website.
The developments put a damper on Bali’s hopes of reviving tourism this year, which accounted for an estimated 60 percent of economic activity before the pandemic. The island’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by just under three percent in the third quarter, after shrinking by nearly 10 percent in 2020.
Indonesia’s national GDP increased by 3.5 percent over the same period, making Bali the Indonesian province hardest hit by the pandemic from an economic perspective for two years in a row.
The global tourism sample that once fed Bali is likely to recover only in 2024 to 2019 levels, according to management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, which made the forecast in June based on several scenarios examining the effect of virus restriction.
Observers in Bali feel the same.
“History has shown that Bali is very resistant to disasters, but the island will take another year or two to recover,” said Mark Ching, a director of the Tamora Group, a prominent real estate developer on the island. “It’s not just about opening borders. People need to feel safe before traveling again. ”