Bali welcomes 1st international tourist flight amid cautious reopening | To travel
The Indonesian holiday island of Bali welcomed its first direct flight carrying foreign tourists in nearly two years on Thursday, but only a handful of visitors were on board to enter strict quarantine upon arrival.
A Garuda Indonesia flight from Tokyo is expected to arrive in Bali in the afternoon, with six foreigners and six Indonesians on board, said Ida Ayu Indah Yustikarini, head of the Bali government tourism board.
Although the island officially opened to visitors from China, New Zealand, Japan and a few other countries in mid-October, there have been no direct cargo-free flights since then.
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The six foreign tourists arriving from Tokyo were traveling on business visas because the new rules for tourists were not ready when they asked to come, Yustikarini said.
Indonesia said the restart of international flights was aimed at boosting Bali‘s ailing tourism sector, which typically accounts for 54% of its economy.
Known for its surfing, temples, waterfalls and nightlife, Bali attracted 6.2 million foreign visitors in 2019, the year before Covid-19 hit. The country as a whole saw just 1.6 million foreign visitors last year, down 61.57 percent from 2020.
However, Indonesia maintains much stricter quarantine requirements than its Southeast Asian neighbors Thailand, which resumed quarantine-free entry for vaccinated visitors from Tuesday and the Philippines, which will make even from February 10.
Vaccinated tourists in Bali must quarantine between five and seven days in hotels or on ships offshore.
Bali’s slow reopening comes as Indonesia experiences a steady rise in Covid-19 cases, mainly due to the Omicron variant. The country reported nearly 18,000 infections on Wednesday, the highest tally since August.
Singapore Airlines announced last week that it would resume flights to Bali from Singapore from February 16.
Garuda also said on Wednesday that he started a cargo flight from Bali to Japan, carrying 17 tons of cargo, including tuna. Most Asian airlines have relied heavily on cargo revenue during the pandemic due to low passenger numbers.
Indonesia last week opened two islands close to Singapore to visitors to the city-state, although visitors will be confined to specific resort areas.
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