Indonesia’s holiday island of Bali on Thursday welcomed its first direct international flight in nearly two years, as the government plots a full reopening of the popular tourist destination.
But the jetliner only carried a couple of handfuls of travellers, leaving any schedule for future flights unclear and the tourism-dependent island with little hope that its plight might soon be over.
A Garuda Indonesia flight from Japan’s Narita International Airport arrived with 12 people on board – six Japanese and six Indonesians – Nyoman Gede Gunadika, head of the Bali Tourism Board, told Nikkei Asia.
Since Indonesia has not restarted its visa on arrival process nor come up with a tourism visa scheme, the Japanese nationals are arriving on business visas, Gunadika added.
While Indonesia had opened Bali to flights from select countries in October, no direct flights had arrived at the island before the Garuda flight.
Indonesia’s flagship carrier had planned for a weekly flight between Japan’s Haneda Airport and Jakarta, with a stop in Bali, to begin in December but scrapped the plan due to Omicron variant concerns.
In 2019, Bali welcomed 16 million foreign visitors, but arrivals plummeted to four million in 2020 and then to 1.5 million last year.
The island on Friday will open to flights from all countries, the Indonesian government announced in late January, but whether tourists will choose to vacation in Bali remains to be seen.
The Philippines on Feb 10 will begin accepting fully vaccinated tourists quarantine-free, while Thailand restarted its quarantine-free entry programme for vaccinated travellers earlier this week.
Indonesia is still requiring vaccinated travellers to quarantine for five days upon the arrival.
A further blow to Bali is the cancellation of the Group of 20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in mid-February. It has been relocated to Jakarta, and some attendees will join virtually.
Apart from the Garuda flight on Thursday, a Singapore Airlines flight is scheduled to arrive on Feb 16, Gunadika from the Bali Tourism Board said. The airline in late January said it would “resume daily commercial flights” from the city-state to Bali on that day.
Bali’s reopening to all countries comes with Indonesia suffering its third Covid-19 wave, driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. The country recorded 17,895 new positive tests on Wednesday, up from less than 300 a day at the start of January.
- TAGS / KEYWORDS: