Hong Kong and Jakarta (CNN) – Destinations around the world have faced a significant drop in tourists amid the coronavirus pandemic. But few have been affected more than Bali, the Indonesian island so beloved by travelers from all over the world.
Due to strict border controls and airport closures, Bali switched from receiving millions of international visitors to only receiving 45 in 2021.
For comparison, the island welcomed 6.2 million international arrivals in 2019 and 1.05 million in 2020.
“It’s the lowest number of foreign tourist visits we’ve ever recorded,” Bali County Tourism Director Nyoman Gedi Gunadica told CNN.
The two-digit number corresponds to the period between January and October 2021 and was confirmed by the Central Bureau of Statistics in Bali.
Since the island’s Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar is closed to international flights most days of the year, these tourists arrived mostly via private yachts. Although the airport returned to Officially open for international flights On October 14, there were so far only domestic flights entering and leaving the airport, mostly from Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.
To come to Bali, foreign tourists have to meet strict entry requirements related to COVID-19. They must obtain a business visa at a cost of $300 (currently no tourist visas), undergo multiple PCR tests and obtain private medical insurance. In addition, the costs of airline tickets are higher than usual, due to the lack of direct flights.
One optimistic visitor is Justina Frusha, a British national who is planning a trip to Bali with her husband. This will be her first visit to the island, which she says has been on her priority list for a long time.
“We think the government of Indonesia and Bali is very ruthless in imposing a 10-day quarantine on fully vaccinated people,” Frusha told CNN.
Policies regarding COVID-19 for foreign visitors to Bali are set by the central government in Jakarta, not by the island’s local authorities.
Initially, the quarantine was shorter, but it has recently been increased due to fear of the new alternative, Omicron.
Frusha and her husband will arrive in Jakarta on December 26, they will be quarantined there for 10 days and then travel to Bali, barring last minute changes or problems. He says they have relied on social media, especially Instagram, to stay updated rather than on official government channels.
“Before the outbreak, people in Europe and the UK loved Bali,” he adds.
Ray Suryawijaya, director of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association in Bali’s Badung District, agrees with Frusha.
“With all these barriers, it’s hard for us to expect foreign tourists to come to Bali,” he says.
However, there is a small glimmer of hope with the gradual return of national tourism. Ray reports that the occupancy rate for Bali hotels is now around 35%.
“On weekends, about 13,000 local tourists visit Bali,” he adds.
While such a small number of visitors is an encouraging note at the end of the year, especially for the many Bali residents who depend on tourism to support their families, it will not be enough to save the 2021 season.
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