International Airlines Scrambling To Add Flights To Island
Bali reopened to foreign tourists after 18 months of pandemic restrictions, but the airlines and travelers were caught off guard by the sudden announcement. It will take weeks, if not months, to fill the pipeline with tourists again.
The government announced Bali’s reopening after a sharp fall in coronavirus cases. It plans to keep it that way with many ongoing precautions. The island is ready for tourists to return, but it doesn’t expect large crowds soon.
“The regulation has just been issued. These things take time. These countries and the visitors need time,” said Bali’s governor I Wayan Koster. “We hope that flights return soon.”
Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for more than half of Bali’s economy, but the island has been closed to foreign tourists since April 2020, leaving many workers desperate for income. Foreign tourist arrivals dropped from 6.2 million in 2019 to only 1 million in 2020. The average occupancy rate for hotels in Bali was below 20 percent. More than 92,000 people employed in tourism lost their jobs.
After closing the island to all visitors, Bali reopened to Indonesians from other parts of the country in the middle of last year. That helped the island’s gross domestic product grow a modest 2.83 percent in the second quarter this year, ending five consecutive quarters of decline. From January to June this year, only 35 foreign tourists entered through Bali’s airport. Hotels have started to receive bookings by foreign visitors for November visits.
Tourists from 19 countries are now able to visit Bali and the Riau islands — Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Liechtenstein, Italy, France, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Hungary, and Norway.
Visitors must arrive on flights directly from their countries of origin. So far, most countries on the list do not offer such flights.
Tourists must be vaccinated. They also are required to spend their first five days in quarantine. Visitors also must have proof of medical insurance. They also must follow rules at hotels, restaurants and on beaches. More than 80 percent of the Balinese population has been fully vaccinated.
As of September 15, 2021, foreigners or non-Indonesian citizens are allowed to enter Indonesia as long as they have been completely vaccinated for COVID-19. Anyone arriving in Indonesia must undertake a mandatory 5-day (as of October 16th, 2021) quarantine at facilities designated by the Indonesian government. In addition, Indonesia will no longer issue free tourist visas. Instead, tourists must pay in advance for a visa that can cost $65 or more. As of October 27th, there have been at least 4,241,809 cases of COVID-19 across Indonesia. The nation has lost 143,299 citizens to the pandemic, so far.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo is pushing to reopen travel across Southeast Asia. He supports a regional travel corridor that simplifies travel within the region. So far, each country is working independently to fill their travel pipeline with tourists. Singapore reopened to North America and Europe, while Thailand scrapped quarantine rules for 46 countries. Unfortunately, Singapore is proving to be a regional hotspot for the virus again. The pandemic is far from over.