Published on : Friday, November 13, 2020
Tour operators from Bali have turned to novel methods to weather the storm of the coronavirus pandemic as health measures force business closures across the island.
It did not take long for the outbreak to take a toll on I Kadek Didi Suprapta’s business as a tour operator in Indonesia.
An international travel ban and an absence of foreign visitors to the country forced him and dozens of his employees to return to their village on the foothills of Mount Batur in the northeast of Bali and away from the southern part of the island, where most of its tourism hot spots are located.
“It never crossed my mind that I would be back at my parents’ house in the village. I had to shut down my business as tourism abruptly stopped and we no longer had clients,” said Suprapta.
Towards the end of March after reporting its first coronavirus case, Indonesiaissued a travel restriction order which included the suspension of free visas for foreigners.
The restrictions brought tourism — a lifeline for the island’s economy — to a standstill.
Tourism in Bali, an island famous for its beaches, bore the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic.
The sector, which normally contributes 55 percent to regional gross domestic product, previously survived and recovered from two terrorist attacks in 2002 and 2005, the SARS and rabies outbreaks, and volcanic eruptions from the famous Mount Agung.
But eight months into the pandemic, islanders are yet to see light at the end of the tunnel.
Several closed shops, hotels and restaurants line empty and quiet streets which would normally be bursting at the seams with tourists.
The cafes along the main street in Ubud’sTegallalang village, which offers a view to the lush rice terrace fields, as well those along the Legian Street, where the first Bali bomb attack took place, were shut down, with the street housing them wearing a deserted look.
Footfall in Bali’s Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak beaches is also low, except for a few locals enjoying uninterrupted access without the usual crowd of tourists.
According to data from the Bali Tourism Agency, 2,667 people in the sector were dismissed from their jobs, while 73,631 are on a furlough scheme following a freeze of the tourism sector. At the same time, the provincial government lost 9.57 trillion Indonesian rupiahs ($679 million) in revenue from tourism every month.
However, a public holiday to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on Thursday and the government allowing Wednesday and Friday off as collective leave days, offered Bali a respite due to a steady flow of domestic tourists from other parts of Indonesia holidaying on the island during the long weekend.
“We had up to 1,000 domestic tourists during the five-day holiday. The hotels along Kuta and Jimbaran beaches were full again. We are grateful that the central government has declared the collective leave days,” I Putu Astawa, head of the Bali Tourism Agency said in a virtual press conference from Seminyak.
Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister MahendraSiregar said the central government was working with Bali’s provincial government and other agencies to secure the reopening of the island to foreign tourists.
Tags: Bali tour operators