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Bali’s new reality as holiday island to remain closed to international visitors until at least the end of the year

Bali’s new reality as holiday island to remain closed to international visitors until at least the end of the year
August 29, 2020

The Indonesian island of Bali’s announcement that it has postponed plans to reopen to international visitors by September, and instead remain closed until at least the end of the year, is affects millions of its residents who have rely on the tourism industry.

With Indonesia’s official number of Coronavirus cases in excess of 155,000, Bali's Governor Wayan Koster decided that despite the island's heavy reliance on tourism, it will not reopen to international visitors.

In a statement released last Saturday, Koster advised "we cannot open the gate to international travellers until the end of 2020 as the situation in Indonesia, including Bali, is not yet safe to welcome them.”

Closed to international visitors since April, domestic travellers have been allowed to visit the island since the end of last month. However, with Bali’s tourism economy reliant on international visitors, the 95% decline in overseas arrivals has occupancy rate at the island's hotels fell to 2.07% in May, according to the island's statistic bureau.

Janet DeNeefe, an Australian expatriate from Melbourne who owns a restaurant and hotel in Ubud, Bali said the decision to postpone the reopening was "not unexpected".

DeNeefe told the ABC "I already imagined that September was too optimistic, given the increase in (cases of) COVID-19.

"I feel sad for the local people. I think everybody was optimistic that they would get some sort of business back, but obviously we just have to wait and see what happens."

Advising that most of the hotels in Bali were currently closed because there was no point opening when so few tourists are around to stay in them, DeNeefe added many locals were trying their best to survive and were supporting each other by selling food at affordable prices.

Since tourism is the main source of income for most locals, the travel restrictions have significantly impacted the island's economy.

According to a June report by Kopernik - a non-profit organisation based in Ubud - 81% of Balinese households have been impacted economically, and 44% have either permanently or temporarily lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Gede Robi Supriyanto, a musician and environmental activist in Bali, said the figures showed the extent of Bali's reliance on the tourism sector.

Supriyanto told the ABC “tourism is the backbone of Bali and the economy has fallen because we rely too much on it.”

He said the problem had sparked a "cultural shift", with people who had lost their jobs in tourism moving back to their home villages, noting "we see an increase of employment in the agricultural sector, more people doing farm work.

"Bali is going back to its roots," he said. "If we want to see the authentic culture of Bali, that is agriculture, we are seeing it now."

Supriyanto said he saw many Balinese beginning to take care of water sources, paying more attention to nature, and repurposing their lands that had previously been used for tourism infrastructure.

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28th April 2020 - PATA anticipates 32% fall in Asia Pacific visitor numbers through 2020 but predicts resurgence in 2021

23rd April 2020 - WTTC calls on G20 leaders to coordinate recovery for the tourism industry

3rd April 2020 - Bali faces uncertain future without tourists

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17th October 2019 - Bali Summit to address future of Asia’s wellness economy

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3rd February 2017 - UNESCO and UNWTO combine to launch 2017 as International Year of Sustainable Tourism

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