Indonesia will stick to ‘3B’ travel bubble plan

At the moment, Bali has achieved the highest rate of vaccination per capita in Indonesia, with a target of vaccinating 70% of the island’s 4.4 million population towards herd immunity — and international reopening. Photo Credit: Unsplash/Jeremy Bishop

Indonesia’s plan to restart international tourism has gone through a number of false starts. However, Indonesia’s tourism and creative economy minister Sandiaga Uno is assuring the sector that the Bali-Batam-Bintan travel bubble is “still on schedule” to open in June-July.

one-way travel corridor between Singapore and Batam and Bintan Islands in the Riau Archipelago — known locally as Kepri — was initially scheduled to open on 21 April. However, the head of the Riau Islands Tourism Office, Buralimar, announced at a tourism ministry discussion on 12 April that the opening had been postponed to a tentative 7 May.

Since then, Sandiaga’s statements have focused on opening the Bintan-Batam travel corridor simultaneously with the Bail travel bubble — which he has dubbed “3B”.

“It is indeed targeted for June-July, in accordance with President Jokowi’s direction, but the Covid-19 numbers will determine [the opening date of the travel bubbles]. If the numbers are controlled and in a conducive position, of course we can realise it,” Sandiga said on 17 April, in a CNN Indonesia report. A few days later, he told that “until now we are still on schedule”.

While so far no other destinations apart from 3B have been selected to become travel bubbles, the tourism minister has received requests from other regions to become candidates, including Belitung, Yogyakarta, and Lake Toba. Vying for a bigger slice of the government’s tourism development pie, in February Belitung put in a bid to be added to Indonesia’s super-priority destinations.

Although Indonesia is targeting June-July for the 3B opening of the travel bubbles, it appears Singapore now has a different timeline for allowing its citizens to enter Bintan and Batam.

The governor of the Riau Islands, Ansar Ahmad, announced on 20 April that the Singapore Consul General told him the Bintan-Batam travel corridor cannot open until August, due to a rise in Covid-19 cases in the province, Bisnis reported.

In preparation for reopening to international arrivals, Bali’s governor Wayan Koster set a target to vaccinate 70% of the island’s 4.4 million population towards herd immunity. By mid-April, 600,000 Balinese had received the first dose, while a third of them had received both doses — the highest rate of vaccination per capita in Indonesia. Several hundred expats have also been vaccinated.

The majority of these vaccinations have taken place in Bali’s designated ‘green zones’ — Nusa Dua, Sanur and Ubud — where the first phase is reported to be 100% complete. Areas in the ‘buffer zones’ around the green zones have also been prioritised for vaccination.

Bali’s provincial government is preparing quarantine hotels for foreign arrivals, who will be required to quarantine for five days and undergo two PCR Covid-19 tests at their own expense. This policy mirrors the one that has been in place in the nation’s capital Jakarta since December last year. As of 24 April, Bali’s total confirmed cases of Covid-19 had reached 43,915, while the seven-day average of daily new cases was 166.

While Australia has approved of the Trans-Tasman reopening with New Zealand, nothing has been said yet for links to other destinations, including Bali, which calls Down Under one of its primary source markets.

As such, Bali is now looking towards travellers from the Netherlands, the UAE, China and Singapore. At a ‘vaccine festival’ at the western port of Gilimanuk in early April, deputy governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati said, “for tourists from other countries, we will wait to see developments”.