Jakarta (ANTARA) - Indonesia is gearing towards a transitional period of the new normal amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, following the relaxation of large-scale social distancing (PSBB) measures that still mandate the implementation of strict health protocols.

The pandemic has had an adverse effect on tourism due to the tightening of measures and controls on air, sea, and land transportation to break the chain of transmission of the novel coronavirus disease, or COVID-19.

As of August 22, 2020, the tally of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia had reached 151,498, with 105,198 recoveries and 6,594 deaths.

Even as the nation adapts to new habits amid the ongoing pandemic, the government is endeavoring to revive the tourism sector, while putting measures in place to ensure tourists and other stakeholders consistently practice health protocols.

The Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy has implemented technical guidelines and strict health protocols at tourism destinations to ensure safety of travelers.

To regain tourist confidence, ministry has also promulgated Cleanliness, Health and Safety (CHS) protocols, according to Ari Juliano Gema, spokesperson for the ministry’s COVID-19 Impact Handling Task Force.

"That means that, in this period, we are prioritizing cleanliness, health, safety, and environmental aspects. We already have guidelines that we have made with the aim to ensure that all tourism destinations are following the guidelines and can ensure that the CHSE factors are met," he explained.

The ministry has also produced a video on the implementation of guidelines and health protocols, he added.

The spokesperson further said the government is currently focusing on attracting domestic travelers rather than foreign tourists owing to the fact that COVID-19 is still prevalent across the globe.

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According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), Indonesia recorded 160,280 foreign tourist arrivals in June, 2020, a 2.06-percent decline compared with May, 2020, and an 88.82-percent drop from the corresponding period of last year.

During the January-June period this year, the total number of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia had reached 3.09 million, a decline of 59.96 percent from 7.72 million tourists registered in the year-ago period.

Several local governments opened their gates to domestic tourists from July 31 this year, and plan to start welcoming foreign tourists from September 11.

Bali, among the world's most popular resort islands, reopened to domestic tourists from July 31, 2020, after months of remaining deserted due to the pandemic, which originated in China in late 2019.

However, the opening up of tourism is being conducted in stages, and, is being restricted to regions that are ready to apply stringent health protocols.

Of the total US$18 billion earned in foreign exchange by the tourism sector prior to the pandemic, Bali accounted for about US$10 billion, according to Suharso Monoarfa, National Development Planning Minister.

He said he believed that COVID-19 would drive a change in the tourism sector in future, making it quality-based, as it applies the new normal protocols.

"In future, there will no longer be mass tourism, but it would veer more towards quality tourism," he stated during a virtual dialogue themed "The Bounce Back of Bali" on August 4, 2020. Not far from Bali, Gili Trawangan in North Lombok district, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) is also eager to receive tourists and is working to ensure the area remains free from coronavirus infections.

"We assure tourism in Gili Trawangan (is safe), as it has zero (COVID-19 cases). No cases of the virus at all, at zero. There are no more virus infections," West Nusa Tenggara Provincial Police Chief, Inspector General Mohammad Iqbal, said on August 19, 2020.

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Gili Trawangan is a major tourist destination in NTB and a popular resort among tourists. The small island on the northern edge of Lombok Island is known for its natural beauty, with white sandy beaches and coral reefs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has struck a major blow to tourism at Gili Trawangan, with tourism activities on the small island recording a decline. To survive the challenging time, local tourism businesses have begun offering discounts on room rates and free commercial services, among other incentives.

To keep Gili Trawangan safe and free from COVID-19, Iqbal has deployed his officers along with the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) and tourism service officers to patrol the region and continually supervise the implementation of health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Please come to visit. However, we will order those, who do not (comply with the health protocols), to go home," he remarked.

In Bangka Belitung (Babel) province, the number of tourists staying at star-rated hotels in June this year stood at 3,953, a 45.33-percent increase compared to 2,720 in the previous month, according to data provided by the province's Central Statistics Office (BPS) on August 5, 2020.

Nearly all star-rated hotels in the province witnessed an increase in the number of guests, with the highest figure of 2,768 guests recorded at hotels in Pangkalpinang.

The occupancy rates at star-rated hotels in Bangka Belitung reached 20.93 percent in June, 2020, up 5.04 percentage points from 15.89 percent in the previous month.

In North Sumatra, the number of foreign tourist arrivals has started to rise since June.

“In June, 99 foreign tourists, including 75 from Malaysia, entered North Sumatra as compared to one tourist in May,” head of North Sumatra BPS, Dinar Butar-Butar, stated in Medan on August 4, 2020.

Although the figure was lower than the 21,143 foreign tourist arrivals recorded in June, 2019, it was a positive indication in wake efforts to revive the tourism industry, he remarked.

"As tourists began to arrive in the new normal era, the room occupancy rates at star-rated hotels in North Sumatra in June, 2020 began to increase, or at an average of 20.12 percent," he noted.

As many as 43 Indonesian districts and cities have not reported a single coronavirus infection and have remained free from the pandemic so far, according to the National Task Force on COVID-19 Response.

"Hence, it turns out that when we delve deeper, there are still 8.4 percent, or around 43 districts and cities in Indonesia, which have never registered COVID-19 cases. It is (their COVID-19 case count) zero," Dewi Nur Aisyah, a member of the task force's Expert Team, stated at a press conference in Jakarta on July 27, 2020.

She also noted that 238 districts and cities, or around 46 percent, have reported no casualties due to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Wishnutama Kusubandio has said that economic recovery in the tourism sector will become a major government focus in 2021.

"The program in the future will focus on restoring tourism, especially developing five priority destinations, namely Lake Toba, Borobudur, Mandalika, Labuan Bajo, and Likupang," the minister said.

For the purpose, the government will intensify the implementation of 2Ps, namely tourism promotion and participation of private business actors.

It also plans to allocate a budget of Rp14.4 trillion for tourism development next year.

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Editor: Sri Haryati
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