The holiday island of Bali reopened to tourists from select countries on Thursday in what Indonesian authorities called a “small steps” approach to resuming international travel.
Indonesia closed its borders to foreign travelers about 18 months ago.
Vaccinated tourists from 19 countries — including China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, as well as parts of Western Europe and the Persian Gulf — can now travel to Bali and Indonesia’s Riau Islands. Travelers are subject to a five-day quarantine and tested for Covid-19.
The plans are seen as a milestone for the tourism-dependent islands in the Southeast Asian nation, which has been crushed by continued travel restrictions. However, several major nourishing markets for foreign tourism – including the No. 1 market in Bali in Australia, and neighboring Singapore – have been removed from the list.
Talks with Singapore and Australia are underway
Speaking to CNBC on Thursday, Indonesia’s Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaja Ono said the current policy is based on scientific data and guidance from a panel of epidemiologists. He added that the list will be expanded once data from additional markets supports it.
“We want to make sure it doesn’t stop and go, it’s on a smooth and gradual basis,” Ono told CNBC’s “Street Signs.”
“[With] Singapore and Australia, of course, keep talking,” noting that talks focus on ensuring reopening “will first take place on a safe and secure basis.”
Compete with quarantine-free destinations
Indonesia’s partial reopening comes as neighboring countries, including Thailand, Singapore and parts of Vietnam, welcome vaccinated tourists from select countries on a no-quarantine basis.
Indonesia – which was scorched by an improper approach to quarantine that led to a spike in Covid-19 cases in July – is taking a more cautious approach. They also have a reason. The country is preparing to host the G20 summit in Bali in 2022.
“It’s going to be purely scientific, making sure that this process is going to be smooth for the next 18 months as we host G20 events here,” Ono said.
People visit Seminyak on the Indonesian island of Bali on January 5, 2021.
Sony Tombilaka | AFP | Getty Images
In addition to the quarantine, which Ono said will be adjusted in time, the islands are implementing new safety measures, such as hotel certifications and boosting vaccinations.
“We are making sure that Bali prioritizes the entire island for 100% boosters…in the first quarter of next year,” he said.
Authorities hope the new measures will help revive Indonesia’s tourism industry, which accounts for about 4% of the country’s gross domestic product. But Ono acknowledged that it may take time to reach pre-pandemic numbers, as visitors are likely to choose less frequent but longer stays in the near term.