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Bali reopens to foreign tourists, but government rules keep them away.

todayOctober 22, 2021 1

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Not a single international flight carrying tourists has landed in Bali, one of the world’s most popular destinations, and none are scheduled, even though Indonesia announced more than a week ago that the popular island was finally open again for tourists.

Arriving foreign tourists must spend their first five days in quarantine, but so far, hotels offering quarantine on the island report that no one has booked a room.

“We have been waiting every day for a week,” said Fransiska Handoko, vice chair of the Bali Hotels Association. “Where are they?”

Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for more than half of Bali’s economy but the island has been closed to foreign tourists since April 2020, leaving many workers desperate for income.

The Indonesian government abruptly reopened Bali on Oct. 14 to tourists from 19 countries who are fully vaccinated and test negative for the coronavirus. But it gave hotels and airlines little time to prepare and included numerous restrictions that make a Bali holiday unappealing.

Hotel operators say they have received many inquiries from abroad, but once they explain the rules, the callers lose interest.

One factor is the required five days of quarantine. Most Bali tourists come for a week, travel operators said, and don’t want to spend most of their visit confined to a hotel room.

“Two days’ holiday and spending most of the time in quarantine is nonsense,” said Wayan Adika, a reservation clerk at Bali Golden Tour, who has been fielding calls from around the world. “They think it’s better to wait until the quarantine requirement is revoked.”

Requiring even minimal quarantine has left Bali at a disadvantage in competing with other destinations. Thailand, for example, announced on Thursday that it would accept fully vaccinated tourists from 46 countries without quarantine starting Nov. 1.

Adding to the cost of a Bali trip, Indonesia will no longer issue free tourist visas. Instead, tourists must pay in advance for a visa that can cost $65 or more and entails a complicated application process.

Another deterrent for families has been a regulation barring children under 12 from entering Bali because they cannot be vaccinated. That rule will be lifted on Sunday.

Tourists arriving from the 19 nations, including China, India and Japan, must arrive on flights directly from their countries of origin. But most countries on the list, especially those in Western Europe, do not offer such flights.

Among those listed is the tiny European country of Liechtenstein, with a population of 38,000. Yet Indonesia excluded nearby Australia, whose travelers once flocked to Bali.

The regulations also are not easy on airlines. Indonesians traveling to Bali from overseas must fly first to Jakarta, leaving only non-Indonesian travelers to fill the Bali flights.

So far, no airline has scheduled a flight to bring tourists to Bali from abroad, according to a Bali airport spokesman, Taufan Yudhistira.

“We hope the government will re-evaluate the regulations,” said Rai Suryawijaya, Bali chairman of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association. “It is not productive when we are open but nobody is coming. If we are really open, we should make it easy.”

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todayOctober 22, 2021 1