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Economy

Bali reopens to travelers from 19 countries in monthlong program

Visitors must quarantine for 5 days in designated hotels

A man straightens beach loungers as the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Sept. 14 as it prepares to welcome international visitors vaccinated against COVID-19.   © Antara Foto/Reuters

JAKARTA -- Indonesia reopened the popular holiday island of Bali to travelers from select countries on Thursday, offering a ray of hope to the tourism-dependent economy, which has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

International travel to the island from 19 countries, including China, Japan and South Korea, along with a number of countries from the Middle East and Europe, is now permitted. The trial reopening will last a month, Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said on Monday.

Despite the reopening, no international flights are expected to fly to Bali on Thursday, an official at Ngurah Rai International Airport said Wednesday, with the list of permitted countries only made public late that day. The list does not include Australia, which sent the largest share of foreign visitors to the "Island of the Gods" in 2019, before the pandemic struck, at nearly 20%.

The island expects around 100 to 200 international tourists a week during the monthlong program, Bali's Vice Gov. Tjok Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati said Wednesday.

Those traveling to the island are required to be fully vaccinated. Unlike Thailand's "sandbox" program, which exempted vaccinated international travelers to Phuket from quarantine, all those traveling to Bali will have to spend five days in designated hotels. The hotels are located in three designated "green zones" in Denpasar, Gianyar and Badung, regencies that include tourism hot spots such as Sanur, Ubud, Nusa Dua and Kuta.

Visitors who violate health protocols on the island, such as not wearing a mask, are likely to be deported, according to Bali's vice governor.

Ngurah Rai International Airport before the reopening of Bali: The local economy suffered last year when the country was closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.    © Antara Foto/Reuters

After the monthlong program ends, the government will likely assess its effect on the economy and the COVID-19 situation, among other things, and decide whether to continue the program. Thailand's Phuket could also serve as a model for Bali. Thousands of vaccinated travelers have visited the Thai holiday destination since its reopening in July, but the island subsequently saw a spike in COVID-19 cases, largely among local residents.

Bali's reopening comes as COVID-19 cases in Indonesia have fallen sharply over the past few weeks. Daily new cases have hovered around 1,000, a far cry from the 50,000 the country was recording at the peak in July.

While only 36.6% of the eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine, according to Our World in Data, Bali boasts one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, with 78% of its population already having received their first dose and 65.7% fully vaccinated.

Bali's economy was hammered last year as Indonesia closed its borders. Its gross domestic product shrank by 9.3% in 2020, the sharpest contraction among Indonesia's 34 provinces.

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