Rampant coronavirus won't deter Bali's plan to welcome back tourists

Visitors on a beach in Kuta, Bali, on July 15, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) - Bali, Indonesia's most popular holiday destination, is pressing ahead with a plan to welcome back visitors to revive its tourism-reliant economy even as the resort island continues to report a surge in new coronavirus cases.

Indonesians can visit Bali's beaches, temples and popular surfing spots from July 31, while international tourists will be allowed from Sept 11, the island's Governor Wayan Koster said at an online seminar.

The authorities will speed up efforts to control the Covid-19 outbreak before the sector is reopened, he said.

"To bring tourists back, we have to provide a sense of comfort that Bali is able to control the Covid-19 problem well," Mr Koster said on Wednesday (July 22).

"Once we get this under control, I'm confident that tourists will come back soon. People are eager to return."

The number of confirmed cases in Bali nearly doubled to 2,934 this month, raising concerns that the reopening of tourism sites will further fuel the pandemic.

The island, popular with both foreign and local tourists, had some success in containing the virus outbreak in its early phase but the return of migrant workers and easing of physical distancing rules triggered a surge in infections.

Indonesia has seen a plunge in tourist arrivals this year, with foreign visitors to Bali declining 55 per cent in the five months through May. More than six million tourists visited Bali last year with the Malaysians, Chinese and Australians making up the bulk of the travellers, official data show.

Bali's governor said the rebound in tourism will depend on businesses complying with the new health protocols that seek to minimise the spread of virus. The island will draw from its experience of overcoming previous setbacks to tourism such as the 2002 terrorist bombings and the Sars outbreak, he said.

"We are firm and ready," Mr Koster said. "Once we start this, we will march on."

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