Is Bali ready for the arrival of international tourists before Christmas? UN tourism agency thinks so

Tourists watching a performance in Bali, pre-pandemic. Photo: Unsplash
Tourists watching a performance in Bali, pre-pandemic. Photo: Unsplash

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is optimistic about Bali’s readiness to welcome tourists before Christmas, hailing the province’s safety protocol during the pandemic as “excellent.”

Following the agency’s first in-person visit to Bali since the start of the pandemic, a UNWTO delegation led by its Asia and the Pacific director Harry Hwang concluded yesterday that Bali can open to international tourists much sooner than expected. 

“In a nutshell, I am very extremely happy to see Indonesia and Bali. You guys are ready to open for tourism soon, or next year,” Harry said during a press conference in Nusa Dua.

“And I won’t be surprised if the government announced that Bali is open before Christmas.”

Harry lauded the standard of safety protocol in Bali, describing them as “excellent, if not the best one,” adding that he has not seen a single person without masks during his visit. 

Furthermore, the UNWTO also said that its collaboration with the Indonesian government should be an example that other countries in Asia can learn from.

UNWTO this week held a capacity-building workshop on restarting international tourism in Bali, in collaboration with Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy.

According to a statement released by UNWTO, the workshop concluded with the Indonesian government considering closely-monitored plans for a phased-reopening of Bali, which will be gradually rolled out for the rest of Indonesia. The agency says that the plan includes considering tourists originating from countries that have travel corridor arrangement with Indonesia, among a couple others, and enacting a health protocol comprising a PCR test 72 hours before arrival and a second PCR test directly upon arrival.

With more than half of the regional economy in Bali dependent on tourism, the pandemic has severely impacted the province. It is the hardest hit economy in Indonesia, having contracted by 12.28 percent on an annual basis in the third quarter of this year. At this point, Bali’s economy is slowly recovering, especially with the rising number of visitors from the rest of the country after it reopened to domestic tourism at the end of July.

However, in terms of tackling the public health crisis, Bali and the rest of Indonesia still face a fluctuating number of daily COVID-19 cases and continue to set new records every other week, along with concerns of undertesting and unreliable official data shadowing the country’s possible readiness to return to business as usual.

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