Indonesia’s Center for Statistics, Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS), has shared data that shows that Indonesia received 50-times as many foreign tourists in April 2022 as it did in April 2021. The vast majority of these international arrivals were landing in Bali. The center has taken this as the marker that the tourism sector at a nationwide level has officially begun to bounce back.
While this comes as welcome news for the tourism sector in Bali, academics in Indonesia have suggested that a continued cautious approach would support long-term recovery. The head of Gajah Mada University’s doctoral program in Tourism Studies, Prof. Hendre Adjie Kusworo has suggested that although Indonesia has turned a corner, the tourism sector is still at the mercy of international government decisions.
Speaking to The Jakarta Post, Prof. Kusworo said ‘’The recovery of tourism depends on the governments’ response to Covid-19 across the globe, and most importantly, on our continued efforts to keep the spread of the virus under control”.
He went on to say that Indonesia’s current position on Covid-19 is effective, though Bali’s tourism sector could be impacted negatively if governments elsewhere change local restrictions or experience a surge in Covid-19 cases.
He shared that in his analysis of travel trends and recently published statistics from the BPS in felt that the number of international arrivals will grow slowly but consistently as they return to pre-pandemic levels. He suggested that the phased approach to the removal of restrictions supports a consistent and positive recovery for the sector.
There is expected to be a boom in arrivals during Bali’s peak season in July and August. Peak season may not hit pre-pandemic levels in 2022 but will certainly beat 2021. There will then be a slight fall-off in arrivals as international travelers return home after their holidays, as is the case after every peak season.
Predictions suggest that despite this drop-off, the sector will continue the steady climb back to pre-pandemic levels across the board.
Professor Kusworo’s message has been echoed by the Head of Bali’s Covid-19 Task Force, I Dewa Gede Rai. This week Rai announced that caseloads in Denpasar are at a record low and under control. He also urged the public not to slack off on Covid-19 health and hygiene protocols as the end of the pandemic moves ever closer.
Bali has been moved to PPKM Level One, this enables the retail sector to operate at 100% capacity. PPKM Level One requires the wearing of masks indoors and on public transport, cafes, restaurants, event venues, and places of worship may only operate at 75% capacity. The mandate is up for review on the 4th of July 2022. If caseloads remain low the removal of all restrictions could happen as soon as the first week of July.
The Indonesian Government may wish to act with continued caution and vigilance as Prof Kusworo and Mr. Rai suggest. They may feel that keeping some restrictions in place would bring benefits for the first high season since the pandemic began, enabling a slow but sustained recovery. The current restrictions in place are creating friction that is keeping transmission rates low while the local Covid-19 Task Forces promote booster vaccines and isolate new positive cases.
Indonesia has scrapped pre-arrival PCR tests for vaccinated travelers and removed the mandate for wearing masks in outdoor public settings. The visa on arrival program has now been made available for travelers from 72 countries. These are huge incentives for holidaymakers who are seeking an easy pre-arrival process.
As the peak season rapidly approaches and Bali experiences a surge in demand for flights, accommodation, and activities the tourism sector must walk the fine line between scrambling to recuperate revenue lost during the pandemic, and ensuring that there is no increase in Covid-19 cases that risk restrictions being reinstated.
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