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Bali still a shadow of its former self as foreign tourists stay away

Indonesia's 'Island of the Gods' struggles to shake off the impact of COVID

Bali beaches like this one remained empty in mid-November, sparking deep frustration in the island's crucial tourism sector. (Photo by Shotaro Tani)

NUSA DUA, Bali -- When Indonesia opened Bali to vaccinated international travelers from a string of countries in October after nearly two years, it was supposed to herald a return to normality for the tourism-dependent island that was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. But, a month on, the "Island of the Gods" remains a shadow of its former self, with shuttered shops and restaurants dominating its once-bustling streets, and little to no sign of overseas visitors.

Not a single flight from abroad has touched down at Bali's I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport since the reopening, sparking deep frustration and concern in a tourism sector terrified of losing out to regional rivals. Workers blame factors including a time-consuming visa process and are demanding the national government do more to help business bounce back.

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