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An influential member of President Joko Widodo’s cabinet, said the country would not “hurry” to reopen its borders but plans to begin accepting foreign tourists from September 11 were on track.

Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan was asked directly if Indonesia would reopen on September 11 during an address to the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club on Monday.

“Well, yes. I think I heard Australia has a plan to do so [open travel bubbles]. They especially love Bali. We can consider that one. The rest so far, with China, yes we are discussing a travel bubble with China,” he said.

First, though, the government will have to wind back the regulation that bars entry to all foreigners except those with residency permits. Mr Luhut said only certain nations would be welcome and Australia is among them.

Bali locals in masks at temple
Bali Museum

“We negotiate with Australia, we will see what happens. I think what they need from us and what we need from them, we have to negotiate on that. Their standards have to be to the standard of here, because no one can claim they are better than others.”

“Everybody has a problem, you know, I disagree also when people say ‘this country is better than your country’. Which country? Look at America right now. Look at Singapore right now,” he said.

“So we believe that our country, we tackle it our own way. Jakarta, I believe, Indonesia in general, right now [is] quite OK but we have to be careful also. If everybody is disciplined, we can reduce the impact of COVID-19. That’s the key.”

But Australian Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham played down the prospect of an Australia-Indonesia travel bubble opening in the near term and that “people shouldn’t get ahead of themselves”.

“There is still a way to go in opening up travel with New Zealand, which remains more likely than other countries,” he said.

kuta beach

“With our international borders expected to remain closed for the foreseeable future, our priority is getting Australians travelling to other parts of Australia, where it is safe to do so thanks to the successful suppression of COVID-19.”

Bali beach

Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan told reporters on Monday that Indonesia was looking at travel bubbles with several different countries. 

“Right now we engaged in discussions with Australia, with China, South Korea and Japan. So far. And Abu Dhabi as well. We will see what they need from us, what we need from them,” he said.

Bali Tourism

“For international tourists, I have to be honest we are not going to open immediately. We have to carefully select the origin [of] tourists coming over to Bali. I think Australia, New Zealand maybe later on, China of course, maybe South Korea and Japan. We are thinking about that, we study this carefully day-to-day,” Luhut said.

Luhut predicted that travel bubbles between neighboring countries would be announced “this month or at the latest next month”.
The Edge Bali

Bali reopened to domestic tourists on July 31st and has since seen an increase in arrivals at the Ngurah Rai International Airport.

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