I hope this would be able to motivate us further to develop new Balis (and) also encourage efforts to further improve Bali's tourism, (so it can move) towards becoming a more friendly and sustainable destination
Jakarta (ANTARA) - Bali, among the world's most popular resort islands, reopened to domestic tourists since July 31, 2020, after months of being deserted over the ongoing pandemic of the China-originated novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in late 2019.

However, the opening of tourism is being conducted in stages and limited only to domestic tourists and in certain regions that are ready to apply stringent health protocols to fight the pandemic.

The central government and Bali authorities have formulated health protocols to be applied in several sectors, including tourism. The protocols make it mandatory for people to wear face masks while in public places, maintain social and physical distancing, frequently wash hands with soap and in running water, and avoid crowds, among other things.

Domestic tourists entering Bali must hold health certificates attesting that they are COVID-19 free, and Bali hotel employees are obliged to regularly conduct COVID-19 tests.

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On the first day of the opening (July 31), a total of 2,128 people had entered Bali via the Ngurah Rai International Airport, while 1,847 were clocked on the next day, and the figure reached 2,419 on Aug 2, according to Putu Astawa, head of the Bali Tourism Office.

In addition to domestic tourists, some 6,500 foreign tourists, who were “stranded” in Bali since before the pandemic, lauded the opening of the island resort, which also means restaurants, cafés, and hotels are back in operation.

The government has planned to allow foreign tourists to visit Bali from mid-September of 2020 under certain conditions.

Travel planning and booking website Tripadvisor has ranked Bali among the world's best tourism destinations alongside London in the Great Britain and Crete in Greece.

Tripadvisor's Travelers Choice Award for the World’s Best Destination has named Bali, also known as the Island of Gods, among the best tourist destinations globally out of a list of 25.

Indonesian Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, Wishnutama Kusubandio, welcomed the positive news.

"I hope this would be able to motivate us further to develop new Balis (and) also encourage efforts to further improve Bali's tourism, (so it can move) towards becoming a more friendly and sustainable destination," he remarked.

Tripadvisor has described Bali as a real-life postcard, drawing a parallel to a slice of heaven in Indonesia.

Bali offers a plethora of experiences for tourists, ranging from beach tourism, with clean white sands, diving tours that include a close-up view of the wreckage of World War II ships, cultural tours, to spas and yoga tours in Ubud.

Thus far, Bali has been known worldwide as a natural and cultural destination that is favored by scores of foreign tourists.

With the island being reopened in stages, firstly for locals from July 9, 2020, and thereafter for domestic tourists from July 31, 2020, as part of the push towards adapting to new habits, tourists can start making preparations to visit Bali, Wishnutama stated.

The ministry has assisted in the preparations to reopen tourist destinations in Bali, including in providing various facilities to safeguard against the spread of COVID-19, including hygiene, health, and safety support tools.

"Hence, let us jointly implement the CHSE (cleanliness, health, safety and environmental sustainability) protocols properly to proffer a sense of security and confidence among tourists in our tourism destinations," he noted.

Given the penchant of foreigners to work from tranquil, green, and mystical rural regions of Bali, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has highlighted that the government was currently formulating regulations to enable foreigners to work from Bali while vacationing.

"Those foreigners, with expertise in technology, IT, can work from Bali. We are mulling over that aspect, and we encourage it. We just have to chalk out the rules now," Pandjaitan noted recently.

The government is currently channeling its attention on ramping up the number of domestic tourist visits to encourage revival of the country’s tourism sector.

The government has outlined a target to increase the number of domestic tourists by 70 percent, from the current 50 percent, the minister noted.

Hence, in achieving the target, President Joko Widodo opined that eight international airports in Indonesia have the potential to become a hub and super hub for revolutionizing the country's tourism and aviation industries.

The eight international airports are the Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali, Soekarno-Hatta in Banten, Kualanamu in North Sumatra, Yogyakarta, Balikpapan in East Kalimantan, Hassanudin in South Sulawesi, Sam Ratulangi in North Sulawesi, and Juanda in East Java.

The government is evaluating the possibility of merging state firms in the aviation and tourism sectors for ushering in improvements in both.

Meanwhile, the number of domestic and international passengers at Bali’s I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport increased considerably in July 2020 as compared to May and June, with the airport serving 80,586 passengers on 1,381 flights.

Of the total number of passengers in July, some 77,245 boarded 1,282 domestic flights and 3,341 passengers took 99 international flights, Herry A. Y. Sikado, the general manager of PT Angkasa Pura I (Persero's) I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport office, noted in a statement on Aug 11, 2020.

In comparison, the airport had served 8,829 passengers and 322 flights in May and 19,816 passengers and 545 flights in June this year.

The sharp rise in the number of travelers was attributed to a circular issued by the Task Force for the Acceleration of COVID-19 Response in Bali Province No. 305 / GUGASCOVID19 / VI / 2020, which came into effect on July 5, 2020.

The letter states that prospective domestic passengers looking to travel to Bali by air can present a PCR test certificate with a negative result or a rapid test result certificate with a non-reactive result.

The terminal is currently functioning at 50-percent capacity, up from the earlier 35 percent of the maximum capacity as a precautionary measure against an increase in the number of passengers and to avoid amassing and queues of passengers at the terminal.

The I Gusti International Airport has installed an ultraviolet light (UV)-based disinfection device on every escalator and baggage claim facility. With this device, the escalator handles and luggage are automatically disinfected, thereby minimizing the potential for the spread of the virus.

The Ngurah Rai airport management has currently also enabled a touch-less tollgate, so that users entering the airport on four-wheeled vehicles are not required to touch the ticket button. This feature is expected to reduce contact with frequently touched surfaces.

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Editor: Mulyo Sunyoto
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