By Allison Markman
New York City, New York
On October 14th, Indonesia authorized the travel of vaccinated tourists from 18 countries, and opened Bali’s international airport. Only 43 tourists have traveled to the island in 2021. This is a jarring statistic, especially considering that 6.3 million people traveled to Indonesia in 2019, prior to the pandemic.
Since reopening, a mere 153 people have applied for tourist visas. Some have attributed this lack of interest to the week-long quarantine that Bali imposes on tourists entering the country.
This lack of tourism is detrimental to the country, as revenues from the tourism industry contribute to 54% of their economy.
Traveling to Bali is very probably not a COVID-19 threat, as the country reports an average of only seven cases per week, and also has a high proportion of adults that are vaccinated.
The government has shut down all clubs and restaurants from December 24th until December 26th, and prohibited all leisurely travel to Bali for Christmas or New Year’s. Although the country is attempting to limit the spread of COVID-19 and maintain their low positivity rate, the people who are hurt most by these restrictions are owners of small businesses in Bali. These business-owners rely on the tourism industry for their livelihoods, and over 700,000 workers have lost their jobs or been furloughed.
Dicky, a man who sells shell jewelry on the beach, discussed his struggle to sell his goods. “I came here at eight in the morning and have been walking up and down the beach all day. I try, try and try but I have not sold a single piece.”
The emergence of the Omicron variant has also put a wrench in Indonesia’s efforts to revive its tourism industry. As a response to the highly contagious variant, the country has extended the quarantine on all people traveling from outside of the country to 10 days.
There have been no planned flights to the island in nearly 20 months, and the new COVID-19 protocols forced its national airplane service, Garuda Indonesia, to cancel its first international flight to Bali.
The World Tourism Organization found, in a poll, that 45% of people did not expect tourism to return to 2019 levels until 2024.
To alleviate the bleak economic situation, Bali has considered kickstarting firms in new industries such as fishing and manufacturing in an attempt to strengthen their economies.
With the emergence of new variants of COVID-19, Indonesian workers may continue to struggle as their economic statistics remain at an all-time low.