Pacific Ocean island dubbed ‘New Bali’ for Australians

Bird Island (Isleta’n Maigo Fahang) is situated in a picturesque bay in Saipan’s rugged northeastern coast. Photo courtesy of Marianas Visitors Authority.
Bird Island (Isleta’n Maigo Fahang) is situated in a picturesque bay in Saipan’s rugged northeastern coast. Photo courtesy of Marianas Visitors Authority.

An island in the Pacific Ocean is being dubbed as a potential “new Bali” by Australian media, with the destination reportedly seeking to position itself as a post-pandemic choice for wanderlust Australians. 

Saipan is the largest of the Northern Mariana islands located in the western Pacific Ocean, about a six-hour flight away from Brisbane. According to reports, the US territory has rolled out a robust vaccination campaign and is expecting to achieve herd immunity from COVID-19 in weeks. 

As such, some experts say that Saipan is a likely choice for Australian holidaymakers, especially when comparing the island’s COVID situation with that of Indonesia and the Philippines. 

“No Australian health authority is going to allow travel to Bali any time soon, same with the Philippines. Australians are going to want to go somewhere that’s COVID-safe and Saipan ticks all the boxes,” Neil Hansford, an Australian aviation expert and chairman of Marianas Pacific, told The Australian.

Most people may have never heard of Saipan before, but the island is known as the setting of a key US victory against Japan in 1944. They have grown more popular among scuba divers and snorkelers in recent years, with reports of international tourists flocking to its bars and restaurants. 

The “new Bali” title has since made its way to Indonesian news outlets too, which are picking up Australian reports on the topic. This shouldn’t be confused with Indonesia’s own “New Bali” project, which has prioritized a number of travel destinations across Indonesia as alternatives to the world-renowned island, such as Lake Toba in North Sumatra and Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). 

With these fresh discussions on a ‘new Bali’ for Australians, it’s only natural to be reminded of Bali’s long history with Australian tourists, who for years have been Pulau Dewata’s top visitors. Given the current COVID crisis in Indonesia, however, reopening the country to foreign tourists doesn’t seem very likely just yet despite previous plans to do so. 

Therefore, other destinations may be looking to tap into the promising market, according to the chairman of Australian Federation of Travel Agents Tom Manwaring, who told The Australian that the impact of the pandemic in Bali will be positive for places like Saipan. 

Read Also ⁠— Ethnocentric article reminds us that Westerners still see Indonesia as nothing more than Bali

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