Slow vaccination progress and relentless case numbers mean that Bali will not re-open in September to international tourism. But a reopening may finally be in sight as the tourism-dependent island considers adapting an approach similar to what Phuket, Thailand has used to welcome back visitors.
A New Travel Sandbox In Bali Modeled After Phuket?
Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno hinted at the new approach last week:
“We are learning from the Phuket Sandbox with its one focus of significantly reducing local transmissions in Phuket, and this can be applied in Bali later on.”
The Phuket Sandbox represents Thailand’s initial program to relaunch international tourism. Fully vaccinated foreign travelers may enter Thailand via Phuket, but must remain there before traveling to other parts of Thailand. However, within Phuket travelers are allowed to move freely upon the presentation of vaccination proof and negative COVID-19 tests.
But that “later on” caveat is key. Notably, while Bali is exploring the possibility of a Thai-like approach, no concrete plans actually exist at this time.
Thus, those hoping for a return to Bali this month will be disappointed. The final plan to welcome foreigners back to Indonesia may require not only proof of vaccine, but be restricted to a small handful of nations later in 2021, require quarantine, and be limited to Bali.
Bali Reopening Plan Delayed Until At Least September Due To Surge In Cases, Limited Vaccine Progress
Tourism-dependent Bali, Indonesia has been closed to tourism for over a year. Plans to re-open at various stages over the last 11 months were scuttled by new variants of the virus. While managing the COVID-19 pandemic well, Bali faces a difficult proposition: without efficacious mass vaccinations, the economy will continue to suffer.
Bali continues to make progress in its vaccination efforts, but the majority of residents have yet to be fully vaccinated. Bali is targeting a 70% vaccination rate in order to reopen. 71% have now received the first dose, but a recent surge in cases has slowed efforts at fully vaccinating island residents. Indonesia has prioritized Bali in terms of vaccine distribution and secured over four million doses of the Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines, with more to come. Overall, only 11% of Indonesian citizens are fully vaccinated.
Sandiaga Uno, Indonesia’s Minister for Tourism and the Cultural Economy, told Reuters in July:
“We were targeting end of July, beginning of August, but we just have to be mindful of where we are in this recent spike in cases. We will be waiting for the situation to be more conducive.”
Early August and now September passed without opening as Bali experienced a four-fold rise in COVID-19 cases in July, with daily cases now numbering around 150. Uno wants daily cases to drop to between 30-40 before Bali is re-opened.
In March, the governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, laid out plans for a new safe area within Bali that would allow the island to re-open to tourism in lower risk areas. However, the impracticality of closing off certain areas while opening others has redirected the focus to vaccinations and travel bubbles.
In June, the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy announced the re-opening of all of Indonesia to tourism in July at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Deputy of Minister for Tourism Marketing Nia Niscaya noted:
“By participating in ATM Dubai 2021, outbound tourism’s leading global event, we are demonstrating that Indonesia is confident of maintaining its position as a world-class destination.”
Destinations including Bali, Bintan, and Batam will serve as “locomotive” regions to jumpstart tourism for the entire nation. However, with the recent rise in cases, such re-opening could be months away.
Importantly, it is not yet clear whether travelers to Indonesia must be vaccinated or simply present a negative COVID-19 test.
As the entire nation reels from a surge in COVID-19 deaths, including a record 2,069 deaths on July 27th, re-opening may be tied to national vaccine progress, not just vaccines within Bali. After peaking in late July, new case numbers are again declining, though the positivity rate remains high.
Bali Travel Corridors
Recently, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno noted three criterion that Bali is looking for in establishing travel corridors between countries. These countries must:
- contain the spread of the coronavirus
- have high vaccination rates
- offer reciprocal benefits
With Australian borders now closed until at least mid-2022, there is a shifting focus on China. Cok Ace, the Deputy Governor of Bali, noted:
“We can still hope for China, in terms of quantity, as they contributed quite a large amount of visitors in previous years.”
China was right behind Australia in terms of foreign visitors.
The Jakarta Post reported Indonesia has held private talks with the following nations on creating travel corridors:
- United Kingdom
Talks are also ongoing with China, Singapore and South Korea.
Noticeably missing from the list is both Australia and the United States. Even if Indonesia opens borders to citizens of Australia, Australian citizens are currently not permitted to leave Australia without special permission (which is not granted for foreign tourism, except to New Zealand).
My guess is that Bali will re-open to most vaccinated individuals by the end of 2021 as it hits its vaccination targets and case numbers again decline. The idea of a “sandbox” approach in Bali is encouraging and could revitalize the island after more than 18 months of closure. With many sectors of the Indonesian economy dependent upon international tourism, many livelihoods depend upon it. But don’t book just yet…re-opening will not occur until case numbers drop.
> Read More: Bali Considering “Green Zone” For International Tourists
China require 2 weeks quarantine for their citizens so it’s dead on arrival idea for many tourists. Also, those countries who fawn over China and ignore European & Americans tourists is a big turnoff
I have a soft spot for Bali: it was the first unsupervised overseas trip I took, with a group of friends to celebrate finishing school, at the end of 1969; from there we went on to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The urban areas are unrecognisable from what it was then. Not quite Dante’s descent into hell, but the feral Australian tourists have made it far less desirable ( although , fortunately they can be avoided).
It must be ghost-like now: it was already very quiet when I overnighted there in March 2020.
Does Matthew want to, knowingly or unknowingly, toe the Cummunist Party line? Or does Live and Let’s Fly want to be one small light against hegemony and oppression?
One way would be to cease using “China”. Instead, use “mainland China”. That’s journalistically 100% true. It can get a small percentage, and possibly over time, not to fully accept the claims of the People’s Republic of China, a non-democratcally elected government.
By using the term “mainland China”, one is not favoring either the People’s Republic of China nor the Republic of China.
By using the term China to describe the People’s Republic of China, one is simply accepting plain reality as most people did 3 decades ago. It would be very hard to find any large group in Taiwan today who would disagree or seek to change this status quo.
Many places are sending out the same mixed message. I have booked into Mauritius for 15 days in August with flights and hotel done, under the plan that they will reopen borders in July. However, like Bali, they keep saying it is contingent on the population reaching herd immunity and 60% or greater vaccinated. With that, Seychelles is an example of how this may not work. They have over 60% there with vaccinations yet are now experiencing the second highest per capita cases in the world, even beating India. So, one of two things occurred there, they either opened the borders for flights and tourists too soon before a higher rate of immunity truly took hold (possible) or the Chinese vaccine is actually pretty worthless (also possible). I am already looking at Plan B’s as this is not looking good.
I would say the US policy on Indonesians could be reciprocal. Aside from the need to hold a visa, the United States currently has no covid related restrictions on inbound Indonesians other than the pre-travel test required of all travelers.
I don’t think the Indonesian government is expecting that all countries suddenly waive visa requirements for their citizens. China certainly will not be doing that. They just expect reciprocal COVID related policies. To me that sounds pretty reasonable
I wouldn’t go vacation there right now. Sinovac? That efficacy rate is a joke. Don’t trust anything that comes out of China.
China has already announced no tourism until 2022, how is that reciprocity? Of course, the Indonesian foreign minister said the USA closed to Indonesian citizens sometime last year, which is completely untrue. I guess the government says what it wants, facts be damned? Probably not much different than any other government. I fail to see why it matters if a country has a majority of its citizens vaccinated or the number of cases? The entire country isn’t visiting. Why wouldn’t it just be on a person-by-person situation? Who cares if someone in Bern, Seattle, Naples or Ankara has the vaccine if they plan to stay home? All that matters is the person traveling to Bali or Jakarta. It’s punish the class for the actions of the bad student mentality.
I have October reservations for my wife and I in Bali and I have to admit that I’m starting to get a little twitchy, partially because they keep moving back the reopening date and partially because I’m trying to figure if I’ll have to find new award space through some country that allows transit passengers without quarantine. Any idea if there’s some resource that shows which countries or airports will allow transit for vaccinated passengers?
On a side note, my wife and I have been to Bali several times and we have a driver that we keep in touch with because he’s great. One time we were just driving along and he pointed to a temple. Well, if you’ve been to Bali you know that there are a gazillion temples so we asked what the significance of that (rather drab) temple was. He said that was the favorite temple in all of Bali for Chinese tourists. We looked again but still saw nothing special and asked why it was so popular with Chinese mainland tourists. He replied that it was free. That’s the reputation of the mainland Chinese in Bali. If other tourists are permitted as well, the Balinese will be much happier.
I have a feeling that within the next three to four months there is going to be a travel bubble between Australia and Bali. Australian tourism is by far the islands biggest financial assets. Between June and September a decent percentage of the population from fifty upwards will have had their full vaccine course. Let tholdies have a bit of rest and recreation and keep the younger ones to get them working, great strategy
I’d say close to zero percent chance of that happening
only to china? Didn’t they say the first outbreak was in Wuhan china? Didn’t they say that it came from China? So why give priority to China? Because of the volume of Chinese tourists? Hahahaha come on really.
Why not simply call one country China and the other country Taiwan?
Indonesia is having a lot of cases. I wouldn’t go there even if vaccinated. Malaysia is currently in lockdown, so many cases. The vaccine is not foolproof. I wouldn’t go anywhere that has quite a bit of Covid-19. When you have brain fog, it’s too late to regret.
By the way, I am derek, not Derek.
Too many people are too comfy around the Commies these days
Batam is only a 50-minute ferry from two different Singapore ferry ports. Pre-COVID, many Singaporeans used to visit Batam for a day or weekend trip of golf, spa, eating, and shopping. It would make sense for Indonesia and Singapore to reopen that corridor if Batam residents are vaccinated.
The reciprocity angle is likely to be a deal breaker for a lot of countries. After all Singapore has gone through, do you really think that they’ll just throw open the doors to any Indonesian? Any Balinese perhaps but that’s not the agreement being discussed.
Bali does not have a high number of cases. Less than 70 per day. There is a pretty high vaccination rate in Bali as well so the situation there is quite different than you’re assuming.
Agreed, yet the USA is unlikely to bother with the Indonesian government protocols. could benefit immensely if it opened travel to the pent up demand in USA for something different. Thailand has thoroughly botched their reopening. Bali should grab that. The USA likely has statistically insignificant tourism or business travel from Indonesia. Indonesia, Bali specifically,
off topic? subject is Bali. do we need a lesson on the two chinas?
that was meant to be a reply to one of the Dereks.
Australia has just sent 2.5 million Astra Zeneca, plus other protective gear. I expect that will increase significantly over the next few weeks and months. The reports of many health professionals dying from COVID despite being fully vaccinated with Sinovac are deeply disturbing ( with similar implications for other countries in the region using it, including Thailand).
I’m not so sure about things normalizing by Fall. Increasing infection rates, lack of access to top tier vaccines, the Indonesian government plan to vaccinate young people with the most effective vaccines when they arrive (the vaccines, not the young people), short notice shutdowns, quarantine requirements, the reciprocity requirement, and ever-changing rules make a reopening rather unlikely for this year. My wife and I had a Bali trip planned for October but just cancelled. Ultimately, even if almost every reason I listed above is invalid it just wouldn’t make for a pleasant vacation. We’ll try again next year.
I’m still hoping I can take my planned trip in November.
I really hope it works for you. If you go and you want a driver/guide, I can’t recommend the one we use enough. He got high marks in Tripadvisor as well. I can’t say with gas prices so high but going rate was $50 a day.
They will be pretty keen to reopen for the southern summer peak from dec-feb . Australians flock to Bali in that period despite the fact it’s the rainy season . Still only a remote possibility.
For a virus that only kills 1/2 of 1% of it’s victims (and their average age is 80 years old, majority with comorbidities), it’s sure amazing to see how eager everyone is to stay locked down and masked.
Asia and Oceania has been downright sketchy with their “phased reopenings” and “travel bubbles.” Any westerner who has any sense would avoid planning travel over there until Q3 2022, 2023 to be safe.
We own a villa in Ubud but can’t go because of the lockdown. We’re vaxxed and ready to go when Bali reopens safely, meaning the locals are safe and have reached their herd immunity targets. We live in Hawaii so we know exactly what Bali’s experiencing.
I’m amazed that China is on the bubbles list. They book their travels through Chinese owned tour agencies, stay in Chinese owned hotels and go to Chinese owned restaurants and thereby contributing minimally to Bali’s tourist industry. Shear numbers may not be what’s best for Bali’s recovery. Quality over quantity is needed.
Stay safe and hopefully the local economy can rebound from this global catastrophe.
Here I am again with my iron-clad prediction:
Delays, closures, cancellations, limits, masks, restrictions, papers please, databases, and finally some sort of non-counterfeit-able paper or app.
All those are here or coming.
Five years. COVID restrictions will well in place, and the thing that everyone must deal with, when travelling, until 2026 at least.
Mask police? Check. Random checks (‘papers please)? Check. Jail time for protesters? Check. Demonstrations and counter-demonstrations? Oh yes! Suspicious glances? Check. Masks on planes? Forever.
Mark my words – five years. I’ll be back here in 2026 and see how things are.
Think Delta will be the last variant? Ha. Think you won’t get COVID with your vaccine? You will. Everyone will. It’s just a matter of time.
You should have started your update “In a move that surprises absolutely nobody…” Southeast Asia, AU and NZ will pretty much never open again. RIP.
I put the odds at zero that China allows outgoing tourists to Bali in 2021. No way the Chinese Communist Party will risk the humiliation of having to call off the 2022 Winter Olympics due to covid.
Killing Bali to save it. Makes a lot of sense . . . for the self-serving politicians who come up with these foolish plans and refuse to learn from their many mistakes since they never pay for them.