Tourist hot spot Bali to remain closed to foreigners for 2020, SE Asia News & Top Stories

DENPASAR • The Indonesian island of Bali will remain closed to foreign visitors for the rest of this year after the authorities postponed a plan to welcome back international tourists from Sept 11 as the coronavirus continues to spread.

“The Indonesian government couldn’t reopen its doors to foreign travellers until the end of 2020 as we remain a red zone,” Bali Governor Wayan Koster said in a statement. “The situation is not conducive to allowing foreign tourists to come to Indonesia, including to Bali.”

A decision on when foreign tourism could resume would depend on the “assessment of the situation in and outside of the country”, said Mr Koster.

After some success in containment early on, Bali’s infection rate jumped in June as migrant workers returned home and testing increased. The island had 4,576 confirmed cases as of yesterday and 52 deaths, while Indonesia as a whole has more than 155,000 confirmed cases and 6,759 deaths, government data showed.

Bali has been open to local travellers since the end of last month, and as many as 2,500 people have been arriving through its airport every day without causing a spike in infections, Mr Koster said.

The local government will focus on increasing the number of domestic visitors to help the tourism industry and economy recover, he said.

More than six million foreign tourists visited Bali last year, accounting for more than a third of Indonesia’s total.

The occupancy rate at Bali’s starred hotels plunged to 2.07 per cent in May, according to Bali’s statistics bureau, from 62.55 per cent in December before the pandemic hit, and down from 51.56 per cent in May last year.

The government warned in April that the pandemic could wipe out more than US$10 billion (S$13.7 billion) of Indonesia’s tourism revenue this year, a forecast that is likely to worsen now because it assumed there would be some recovery in the second half.

“Bali cannot fail because it could adversely impact the image of Indonesia, including Bali, in the eyes of the world, which could prove counter-productive to the recovery of travel,” Mr Koster said.

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS