No Backpackers: Top Indonesian minister wants ‘clean’ Bali when foreign tourism restarts

UPDATE Sept. 14: A spokesman from the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment today came forward to clarify Luhut’s statement, saying that what the minister really meant was a prohibition for visitors who violate health protocols and immigration laws. 

Original story follows.

Indonesia appears to be gearing up (again) to reopen the country to foreign tourism, but it seems not everyone would be welcome after one senior minister hinted that backpackers should take their wanderlust elsewhere.

With foreign tourism always closely linked to the country’s most popular destination, Bali, Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan signaled the possibilities for a clean slate in the province during his visit on Friday

“We have prepared everything. When will we open? It depends on the country [of origin]. Not all countries, so [depending] on which country and when we are ready. I think it’s possible in Level 2,” Luhut said, referring to the tiered version of the Enforcement of Restrictions on Public Activities (PPKM).

Bali is currently categorized as Level 4, which carries the tightest set of restrictions, though the province is likely to level down when the central government announces PPKM’s weekly extension later today.

Any international tourism relaunch would be conducted carefully, Luhut said, including by making the health and mobility tracking app PeduliLindungi mandatory at public facilities and tourist attractions. The minister also said that Indonesia is only interested in “quality visitors.”

“We will filter tourists that come visit. We don’t want backpackers to come so that Bali remains clean, where the people who come are of quality,” Luhut said. 

There are no concrete plans or timeline for the planned reopening just yet, and it’s worth noting that similar discussions have taken place plenty of times during the pandemic. Nothing has so far come into fruition as the COVID-19 crisis continued to rage, though Bali is now seeing a considerable decline in cases after roughly two months of its most devastating wave of infections. 

Earlier this month, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno floated the possibility of adopting Thailand’s “Phuket Sandbox” scheme to restart international tourism.

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