Bali Reopened in 2021 But Only Welcomed 45 Foreign Visitors

Bali Reopened in 2021 But Only Welcomed 45 Foreign Visitors

The coronavirus epidemic has caused considerable tourism declines in destinations all around the world. But no island has been impacted harder than Bali, a popular destination for tourists from throughout the world for many years.

Due to rigorous border controls and a shut-down airport, Bali’s annual international tourist count dropped from millions to just 45 in 2021.

Compare that to about 6.2 million international arrivals in 2019 and 1.05 million in 2020.

“That is the lowest number of foreign tourist visits we’ve ever recorded,” Nyoman Gede Gunadika, section head of tourism for Bali Province, told CNN.

The Central Statistics Bureau of Bali validated the two-digit number, which covers the period from January to October 2021.

The majority of those visitors arrived via private yachts because the island’s Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) in Denpasar has been closed to international flights for virtually the entire year. Even though the airport resumed accepting international passengers on October 14, until now there have only been internal flights into and out of the facility, predominantly from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.

Foreign visitors must comply with stringent Covid-related entry regulations in order to visit Bali. There are now no tourist visas available, therefore they must pay $300 for a business visa, submit to repeated PCR testing, and get specialized health insurance. In addition, there are fewer direct flights, which raises the cost of flying.

One hopeful visitor is Justyna Wrucha, a UK citizen planning a trip to Bali with her husband. It will be their first visit to the island, which she says has long been on their bucket list.

“We think that the government in Indonesia and Bali is extremely harsh by imposing a 10-day quarantine on fully vaccinated people,” Wrucha tells CNN.

The federal government in Jakarta, not the island’s municipal administration, decides the Covid policy for Bali’s foreign visitors. The quarantines were initially shorter, but they have lately been lengthened out of concern about the new Omicron strain.

Wrucha and her husband will arrive in Jakarta on December 26, quarantine there for 10 days and then fly to Bali barring any changes or last-minute issues. She says they have relied on social media, primarily Instagram, to stay updated rather than on official government channels.

“Before Covid, people from Europe and the UK loved Bali,” she adds.

Ray Suryawijaya, head of the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association of Bali’s Badung District, agrees with Wrucha.

“With all those barriers, it’s difficult for us to expect foreign tourists to come to Bali,” he said.

However, there is one small glimmer of hope with the gradual return of domestic tourism. Ray reports that the occupancy rate of hotels in Bali is now around 35%.

“On weekends, about 13,000 domestic tourists are visiting Bali,” he adds.

Even though the meager stream of tourists is a heartening note to end the year on, especially for the numerous Balinese residents whose families rely on tourism, it won’t be enough to save the 2021 season.