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Indonesia strives to win tourist confidence amid COVID-19

Indonesia strives to win tourist confidence amid COVID-19

Lake Toba (ANTARA/Waristo)

The Indonesian government is taking steps to build tourist confidence, considered vital for the successful recovery of the tourism sector, by putting stringent health protocols and screening guidelines in place for regions planning to reopen to tourists.

As it gears for the implementation of the new normal, the government is making efforts to ensure only those regions which report a low COVID-19 transmission rate, backed by scientific data, are allowed to proceed with their plans for receiving tourists, and that too under strict protocols advised by the World Health Organization (WHO).

"We must not push to apply a new normal while it is, in fact, not possible based on the (COVID-19 cases) data. Do not force it. Hence, the stages must be prepared," President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said on June 29, 2020.

As parts of the efforts to regain tourist confidence, the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry has formulated and socialized health protocols, dubbed Cleanliness, Health and Safety (CHS) protocols.

"Indonesia's success in handling COVID-19 can be a consideration in building the nation’s brand. Hence, a synergy between ASITA (Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies) and representatives of market countries is needed to boost tourist confidence," Nia Niscaya, deputy of the marketing division of the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy said on June 28, 2020.

Learning from several countries that have managed to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak, the ministry plans to first focus on the domestic market.

The ministry plans to launch a campaign dubbed #DiIndonesiaAja (#JustStayInIndonesia) targeting the market segment of families, couples, individual tourists, or fully independent travelers (FIT), and the government.

For the international market, the ministry is preparing to launch a #DreamNowTravelTomorrow campaign with its CHS protocol branding.

On June 24, 2020, the task force for COVID-19 response announced that about 58 percent of the country's regions have been classified as green zones, based on a low level of COVID-19 transmission.

Wiku Adisasmito, head of the expert team of the COVID-19 task force, said that based on zone-wise mapping, the number of green zones, with a low risk of transmission, has increased from 46.7 percent to 58.3 percent between May 31 and June 21, 2020.

However, plans to reopen regions to revive their economy while simultaneously safeguarding them from the spread of coronavirus must be carried out gradually.

The health protocols for the tourism sector have been ratified by the Health Minister's Resolution, Number HK.01.07/Menkes/382/2020, on Health Protocols for Communities in Public Places and Facilities in the Context of Prevention and Control of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Cleanliness, health, and safety are the three main focuses in the health protocols, according to R Kurleni Ukar, deputy of strategic policy at the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy .

The health minister's resolution has laid down protocols for hotels, inns, homestays, hostels, and other accommodations, restaurants, smaller food joints and food services, tourist locations, modes of transportation, creative economy services, event/meeting organization services, as well as other relevant public places and facilities closely affiliated with the tourism sector and the creative economy.

Decisions related to reactivation, however, will need to be adjusted to the level of risk of COVID-19 spread and a region's ability to control the disease, Kurleni Ukar pointed out.

Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Wishnutama Kusubandio, welcomed the approval of the health protocols.

The ministry has also prepared technical guidelines, both in the form of videos and handbooks, that refer to global standards, he said.

The promulgation of the protocols is an important aspect as tourism is a business that relies heavily on the confidence of domestic and international tourists, he pointed out.

"Gaining trust or confidence (of tourists) is the key to accelerating recovery, so it must be highly considered and implemented," the minister added.

Jakarta, which has been able to control COVID-19 transmission, has been among the first regions to apply transitional large-scale social distancing (PSBB) measures and reopen some tourist attractions, albeit with some restrictions.

The city’s Beautiful Indonesia in Miniature Park (TMII) tourist area reopened on June 20, 2020. However, the park has limited the number of visitors and shifted ticket sales online.

In line with the new normal health protocols, several regulations have been put in place at the park, which require visitors to wear masks in the tourist area, observe physical distancing, and wash hands.

It has also tasked staff with checking visitors' body temperature and spraying disinfectant liquid on visitors' vehicles at the entrance.

Several other iconic destinations in Jakarta, such as the Ancol Dream Land and Ragunan Zoo have also reopened, with new safety protocols in place.

In Indonesia's western most province of Aceh, hotels and restaurants have begun operating by implementing new normal health protocols, according to the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), Aceh chapter.

"Since hotels and restaurants have been allowed to operate since June 1, 2020, we have submitted new normal health protocols," secretary of PHRI (Aceh), Octowandi, said.

Octowandi noted that the health protocols make it mandatory for both hotel and restaurant employees as well as guests to wear masks.

In eastern Indonesia, the Wakatobi district administration in Southeast Sulawesi Province is set to re-open tourist destinations for local and foreign tourists from July, 2020.

Currently, only Wings Air is operating flights twice a week from the Haluoleo Airport in Kendari, the capital of Southeast Sulawesi, to Matahora Aiport in Wakatobi, and from Tomia Airport to Denpasar, Bali Island.

On Java Island's western tip, the Ujung Kulon National Park (TNUK), which has been categorized as a green zone eco-tourism site, is also preparing to receive tourists.

"We have prepared the standard operating procedures (SOPs), (and we are now) just waiting for the circular from the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Forestry (KLHK) (giving the go-ahead for the park’s reopening),” Andri Firmansyah, spokesperson for the Ujung Kulon National Park office (BTNUK) said on June 29, 2020.

The Lore Lindu National Park (TNLL) in Central Sulawesi is also planning to reopen Lake Tambing for tourists under stringent health protocols.

The lake is located in Sedoa village, North Lore sub-district, Poso district, about 90 kilometers from Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi Province.

"Yes, we plan to reopen it in early July, 2020," head of the TNLL office, Jusman, said.

However, entry will be restricted to 500 visitors per week. Normally, the park receives 3,000 visitors, including foreign travelers, per week.

TNLL has no less than 270 species of birds, 30 percent of which are endemic to it, a reason why the national park is thronged by tourists, particularly researchers and bird-watchers, from across the globe.

Lake Tambing is also known as a bird’s paradise, Jusman added.

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