Tourism Leaders Warn of Bali Protests
RadarBali.com and Bali.tribune.com report that feelings of anger and resentment towards the continuing “depression” of the Island’s tourism industry is approaching a boiling point with tourism practitioners threatening to take to the streets if Bali is not reopened to international tourism.
Since March of 2020, Bali’s tourism sector has been in disarray and devoid of guests. Minor comebacks in the form of surges of domestic passenger arrivals or announcements of airport reopening to foreign visitors have, time and again, encountered setbacks. Hoped for peak season revivals in visitor numbers have been undercut by central government lockdowns and regulated travel restrictions. The symbolic announcement of a reopening of Bali’s airport to international flights on 14 October 2021 has, two months on, come to naught with tourists visitors dissuaded from visiting Bali by burdensome visas rules, sponsorship letters, expensive insurance premiums, and draconian quarantine requirements. Meanwhile, government grants to tourism businesses have remained out of the reach of many due to bureaucratic procedures and requirements. Moreover, aid intended for tourism workers made jobless by the pandemic has, in many cases, been given only to Balinese workers leaving some of the worst affected workers from outer islands without funds to return to their home villages.
Continuing hardships have morphed into palatable anger with tourism leaders responding cynically to a recent statement by Bali’s Governor Wayan Koster urging members of the tourism sector to “remain patient.” Speaking before a conference of the Bali Federation of Tourism Union Workers (Federasi Serikat Perkerja Pariwisata Provinsi Bali) on 06 December 2021, the Governor said, “We all need to be patient.” Governor Koster warned that if the borders were suddenly reopened and the rate of infections increased as a result, it will be very difficult to overcome the resulting situation.
The Governor’s call for patience in the current circumstance triggered a cynical response from the chairman of the Bali Tourism Board (BTB), Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana, who said, “Maybe his (the Governor’s) saving account balance is still high.”
A Threat to Take to the Streets of Bali
Adnyana referred to an open letter sent on 19 October 2021 by the Bali Arise Forum (Forum Bangkit Bali) that has yet to be dignified with a formal response by the Central Government. Quoted by Bali.tribune.com, Adnyana said: “It’s been three weeks since we published the open letter and there has been no response from the Central Government. There has been some minor coordination; maybe the government is still thinking, while we are consistent in our support for the letter sent to Jakarta.”
Adnyana said he is coordinating with all tourism stakeholders in Bali.
Adnyana’s comments were made during a press conference held at the offices of the BTB in Central Denpasar on Wednesday, 08 December 2021.
Adding to the acrimony, a leading tourism stakeholder in Bali speaking at the press conference, I Wayan Puspa Negara, commented that the patience of the people of Bali was at an end. Adding: “The people’s lower classes have spent all their savings.”
Puspa Negara, who is chairman of the Alliance of Bali’s Marginal Workers in Tourism (APPMB) said he hoped that December 2021 would bring a change in the fortunes of the Balinese public with the last month of the year usually representing a high season for Bali tourism.
Referring to the fact that 52% of the Regional Domestic Product in Bali is linked to tourism, Adnyana said the people are in desperate need of a tourism recovery to commence. Adding: “We have no more time to wait. With only domestic tourists, the average occupancy rate of hotels is only 10.97%.”
Puspa Negara then sounded an ominous warning of possible public unrest, saying: “If until December there is no change, then we will take to the streets.”
Bali Island Tourism – Quarantine Periods and Visa Requirements
Puspa Negara told the assembled press that a number of recent government policies regarding tourism have become problematic. First on his list were rules on lengthy quarantine periods and, secondly, the lack of visas on arrivals. He described how competing tourism destinations in the region were reducing or eliminating quarantine requirements. He said it was now time for the government to reintroduce the visa-on-arrival facility.
Continuing, Puspa Negara said: “Furthermore, countries such as Australia need to be reopened. (New) cases of COVID-19 in Bali are on the decline, vaccines have been given to more than (sic) one hundred percent. PCR testing is available, We have done everything we can.”
For these reasons, Puspa Negara urged the government to quickly adopt policies that are “pro-tourism” and also “pro-people” – helping the lower classes who work in Bali tourism.
Level 3 Nationwide Lockdown Revoked
Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokesperson for the Indonesian Ministry of Health, has announced that the National Level 3 COVID-19 Shutdown (PPKM) over the Christmas and New Year period 2021/2022 has been revoked.
Despite the revocation of the nationwide lockdown, public mobility will still be restricted and health protocols implemented to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus.
Quoted by Beritabali.com, referring to COVID Czar Luhit Binsar Pandjaitan, Tarmizi said, “Bapak Luhut said there has been a revocation of the Level 3 PPKM, but there will still be limitations on public mobility over Christmas and New Year.” Tarmizi’s comments were made on Tuesday, 06 December 2021, during a dialogue on masking discipline and vaccinations to prevent the spread of the Omicron Variant.
Based on a formal explanation made the previous day by the Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment, Minister Luhut, one of the considerations prompting the national revocation of the PPKM Level 3 over the holidays is Indonesia’s proven ability to control the coronavirus. The Ministry of Health notes that new virus cases confirmed each day averages around 130.
Continuing, Nadia Tarmizi said: “The other day there was lots of information that stated new cases of COVID-19 had reached around 400. But we are reporting around 130 new cases each day with a daily trend showing a reduction of 200-300 cases reported each day.”
Commenting further on deaths attributed to COVID-19, Siti Nadia Tarmizi said that there are between 8 and 10 fatalities every week. The positivity rate (i.e., the percentage of people testing positive for COVID from the total of all tests performed) has continued to decline to 0.13.
“We can see that the current rate of contagion is very low, but we still need to be on guard. This is especially the case with the Delta Variant, which is the most prevalent form of COVID in our country,” said Tarmizi. “This needs to be monitored. The Delta Variant has already mutated to the point that we have already identified 23 separate mutations.”
And while the government has revoked the PPKM Lockdown, the Health Ministry Spokesperson said the public must stay on guard and continue applying health protocols and limiting public mobility.
Reported separately by Detik.com, Jodi Mahardi, the spokesman for the Coordinating Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, also confirmed the revocation of the National PPKM Level 3 Lockdown, explaining that all the regions of Indonesia are not equally affected.
“It is correct that the government will not apply level 3 restrictions during the Christmas and New Year period. But the PPKM policy during the Nataru period will be undertaken in a more balanced manner, accompanied by an intensified testing and tracing program,” said Jodi in a video released on Tuesday, 07 December.
Jody explained that the government is adopting a more balanced approach that will not be applied in a blanketed and uniform manner in every region of the country. This does not mean that the government is relaxing its strict health protocols and efforts to limit public mobility over the coming holiday period.
One of the underlining reasons that the central government has decided to relax the PPKM Level 3 during the holiday is achieving a high level of mass vaccination. In all regions of Java and Bali, 76% of all people have received the first injection, with 42% becoming fully vaccinated by receiving the second injection.
This compares very favorably to the Christmas and New Year last year when no one had been vaccinated. Jody said surveys now show that the Indonesian public now has an active antibody against COVID-19.
Bali Island Tourism – Advance Team for G20 Summit Visits Bali
An advance team for the G20 Summit to be held in Bali in late October 2022 arrived in Bali on Tuesday, 07 December 2021.
In Bali to inspect facilities and review preparations for the conference expected to attract 7,000 delegates and observers, a G20 group of 25 delegates from Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, USA, Holland, Spain, Turkey, Switzerland, and Indonesia came to Bali.
Special channels through Bali’s airport were established to expedite the group’s movement. The foreign participants were also apparently exempted from undergoing Indonesia’s otherwise mandatory 10 day quarantine period.
As reported by NusaBali.com, the general manager the Angkasa Pura I (PAP 1) that manages Bali’s Airport, Herry AY Sikado, confirmed the arrival of the 25-member G20 advance group at midnight on Tuesday of Garuda flight GA4180 following a short flight from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
PAP 1 prepared a special processing lane for the G20 advance team inside the international arrival hall at Bali’s Airport. This was done to keep the group separate from other passengers using the domestic terminal.
“Angkasa Pura 1 as the manager of the Ngurah Rai Airport fully supports the G20 Summit by preparing facilities such as the special channel for the delegates’ arrival to avoid them mixing with other passengers,” explained Sikado on Wednesday, 08 December 2021.
The advance team arriving on a domestic flight from Jakarta were led to the International Arrival Hall where they had their body temperatures checked before being sent to a separate lounge area while waiting for their checked luggage.
The G20 advance team that landed in Bali will depart the Island on 10-11 December 2021.
Bali Island Tourism – Bali Seeks MICE Despite Many Obstacles
The gradual re-emergence of strictly controlled international events signals a restart of Bali’s meeting, incentive, conference, and exhibition (MICE) sector.
These events also serve as dress rehearsals for the G20 Summit in late October 2022, when the world’s leaders are expected to gather in Bali with head-of=state delegations from 38 nations.
Indonesian Badminton Festival
During the first week of December 2021, Bali concluded the month-long Indonesian Badminton Festival 2021 that welcomed players and officials from 38 countries.
The Fourth Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP4)
The Fourth Conference of Four on the Minamata Convention regarding mercury emissions will be held in Bali 21-25 March 2022 in Bali, with attendance expected by 135 countries.
Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction
Participants from 193 countries are expected in Bali 23-28 May 2022 for the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.
Set to be held 30-31 October 2022, the G20 represents one of the world’s greatest annual conferences with over 7,000 delegates and press expected in Bali for the Summit.
On 14 October 2021, Bali technically declared the Ngurah Rai Airport open again for international flights and put in place incentives in the form of discounted landing fees for foreign airlines. Despite these encouraging signs, two months later, no single airline has yet to request a flight slot to land in Bali.
The lack of flights only serves to underline a host of problems or “obstacles” that need to be addressed before Bali can reopen to international tourism. These obstacles include:
- The constantly changing mandatory quarantine period for Indonesian and foreign travelers arriving in Indonesia remains the chief obstacle to Bali travel. Meanwhile, competing destinations in the region are reducing or eliminating quarantine periods for international travelers who are fully vaccinated, citing the lack of reliable evidence that fully-vaccinated visitors are vectors for the virus.
- Lack of a visa-on-arrival facility combined with current requirements to apply for a visa before travel sponsored by an Indonesian national.
- The recently introduced proof of health insurance requirement to gain entry to Indonesia is viewed as burdensome and deters travel to Bali.
- The depressed tourism economy in Bali has diminished the attractiveness of the Island, rendering some tourism areas “ghost towns” due to a large number of closed shops, restaurants, bars, tourist attractions.
Meanwhile, the number of new cases of COVID-19 appear to be increasingly under control in Bali and many other parts of Indonesia due to the successful national vaccination program and widespread acceptance of masking, distancing, hygiene, and gathering protocols.
A smartphone application PeduliLindungi scanned at the entrance to public buildings to verify vaccination status and assist in tracking if needed is now widespread in Bali.
Bali Island Tourism – More than Just Nusa Dua
The government of Indonesia is urged to Include areas outside of Nusa Dua in conferences and exhibition bookings.
Tourism operators in Bali are calling on the government to make sure national and international events held in Bali are also held in areas outside of Nusa Dua, including Sanur, Kuta, and Ubud.
Tourist areas outside of Nusa Dua remain relatively quiet, lacking both visitors and events to drive the recovery of the local economy.
By ensuring that events are hosted outside Nusa Dua, tourism leaders argue that any recovery of the Island’s tourism economy would be more fairly distributed across the tourism sector. “This is what we are hoping for,” said I Gede Paskara Karilo, chairman of The Ubud Hotel Association.
askara Karilo says hotel occupancy levels in Ubud remain very low. Despite some recorded improvements, occupancy is still at a minimum and less than an average of 10%. Those tourists visiting Ubud are all domestic travelers, adding, ” that’s because there are no foreign tourists.”
For this reason, Karilo hopes the government can spread groups and conferences to Sanur, Kuta, Ubud, and other regions where tourism visitors remain few. He continued, saying these other regions of Bali, such as Ubud, were ready and able to handle event bookings. Hotels, restaurants, and businesses have implemented certification on CHSE Protocols (Cleanliness, Health, Safety, and Environmental Sustainability) and are using the PeduliLindungi Online Application. He said the retail sector and supporting sectors should resume operation in a phased manner to permit a total reopening of tourism activities in each region.
Karilo said that while he hoped foreign tourists would soon return to Bali, there are still no international flights operating to Bali, which means the possibility of large-scale foreign tourist visits remains very small.
The Ubud Hotel Association (UHA) has 100 member properties representing 2,200 saleable rooms.
Separately, the Secretary of the Badung Chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), I Gede Sukarta, said he agreed with the partial lockdown (PPKM) and measures to prevent the spread of the omicron virus over the Christmas and New Year period. Adding: “There will certainly be an impact, and the enthusiasm of foreign visitors will probably decline.”
Sukarta urged that Bali confront the current situation with patience. Adding: “We are not faulting anyone. But the current condition of tourism in Bali is very burdensome.”