Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has met with both Russia’s President Putin and Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy in the last week. His mission was clear, to offer to be a bridge between the warring nations and be a key player in establishing peace talks ahead of the G20 Summit that will be held in Bali in November this year.
The discussions were not only about peace and food security, however, but Jokowi and Putin are also said to have discussed international air space, including tourism, and are reported to have touched upon reopening direct flights from Moscow to Bali. Despite the grave and troubled times, the resumption of the Moscow-Bali direct flight may bring benefits for citizens of both nations.
As of 28th April, 2022 Russian citizens were re-added to Indonesia’s visa-on-arrival program. The program initially opened with 60 eligible countries and was extended to include Russia, Ukraine, and fifteen other countries. Currently, there are no direct flights from Russia to anywhere in Indonesia, this was largely due to the pandemic. When the war broke out flight schedules were also impacted.
The return of the Moscow-Bali direct flight would be good news for Bali. Prior to lockdown, Russian tourists ranked as the fourth most frequent international travelers to Bali, with Australia consistently topping the charts. During Bali’s initial reopening period from January 1st to May 31st, 2022, Russian tourists still made it into the top ten of international visitors to Bali. Bali welcomed 3,647 Russian citizens during the first five months of this year.
In the years leading up to the pandemic, there was an increasing focus in Bali on catering to Russian tourists. Travel operators had begun improving the availability of tours, day trips, and experiences with Russian-speaking tour guides. There are a number of hotels in Bali that are focusing on giving their staff Russian language lessons too. Markets and shops are also considering the preferences of Russian tourists too.
Speaking from the Bali Tourism Office, Mr. Gunandika, the Head of Tourism Market Development, said ‘Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, tourists Russia is in the fourth place with the most tourist visits to the Island of the Gods and per year it reaches 300 thousand to 400 thousand’ he went on to explain how many Russian people come to Bali on a longer-term basis than other holidaymakers.
‘They also spend money in Bali, because while working at least he rents a villa’. As Indonesia prepares to launch the digital nomad visa, authorities will be working hard to remove hurdles for citizens of target countries, like Russia. Resuming the direct flight to Bali would be a prime example of that.
Gunandika went on to explain how he hoped that the resumption of the Moscow-Bali flight route would increase tourist numbers, since the flight time becomes shorter and more affordable. Travelers can avoid the hassle of a layover in Singapore or in the United Arab Emirates. Unlike some countries, Indonesia is not issuing travel restrictions or sanctions on Russian travelers.
Since Jokowi’s meeting with Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow on the 30th of June, President Putin has confirmed that International flights to Bali will be resumed but has not given a specific date. This confirmation was happily received by Bali’s Governor Koster who wants to increase tourism opportunities across the island for Russian tourists.
Speaking at Samsat Office in Denpasar on Friday 1st July, Governor Koster responded to news of Putin’s wishes to resume direct flights by saying ‘We certainly think it’s very good. We are grateful because Mr. President has visited President Putin”.
The Indonesian Minister for Tourism and Creative Industries has yet to release a comment about these discussions and has previously stated how he wants to diversify tourism across Indonesia. Both in terms of the destinations that travelers visit within Indonesia, and diversifying the countries and demographics from which travelers belong.
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