Bali speeds up vaccine rollout, eyes July reopening to foreign tourists

The Indonesian government is speeding up vaccination efforts in Bali in hopes of achieving herd immunity quicker and reopen the island’s borders to international travellers under a free Covid-19 travel corridor by mid-year.

Speaking to the media at the Bali Investment Forum held in Bali last Friday (March 26), Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, coordinating minister of maritime affairs and investment, said that the government is striving to vaccinate 1.8 or nearly two million people in Bali by April, and another one million people by May, with hopes of achieving herd immunity in July.

Sanur is among three designated green zones in Bali prepping to receive foreign tourists under a free Covid-19 travel corridor; Sanur Beach in February 2021 pictured

A group of foreign ambassadors attended the Bali Investment Forum to witness the implementation of the Cleanliness, Health, Safety, and Environment Sustainability (CHSE) protocols in the destination, in a bid to show that the island stands ready to welcome back tourists and investors.

With president Jokowi hoping to see the reopening of international borders by June or July, Bali has selected three green zones, namely, Ubud, Sanur, and Nusa Dua, to receive international tourists from countries that have forged travel corridor agreements with Indonesia.

Sandiaga Uno, minister of tourism and creative economy, told TTG Asia that his office will monitor the foreign visitors’ movements in the three green zones digitally and physically to minimise their potential contact with people outside the zones.

“The focus is to ensure that the travellers conduct their activities within the three zones,” he said, adding that there would be checkpoints on the sites.

Sandiaga explained that the travel corridor used a point-to-point concept that would link Bali to certain countries, and during a trial run, the island might first welcome chartered flights to test and evaluate the system.

The minister also expects that the foreign tourist visits will be organised by travel companies so their staff can help monitor their clients’ movements within the green zones.

Commenting on the plan, Ricky Setiawanto, secretary general of the Indonesia inbound Tour Operator Association, said: “What we have suggested to the government is to create attractions and activities within the green zones to keep travellers entertained during their stay, although their movements are limited to just the zones.”

Examples he cited include traditional dances, handicraft-making demos, and cooking classes. Ricky said: “They do not have to be compulsory itineraries in the holiday package, but attractions and activities that are available to travellers should they be keen.” – Additional reporting by Mimi Hudoyo