by Dames Alexander Sinaga
JAKARTA, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- Balinese tourism entrepreneur I Ketut Ardana is all fired up by the reopening of tourism in Indonesia's holiday island of Bali, which had been closed particularly for international tourists for about more than one and half years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting from Thursday, flights from 19 countries, including China, South Korea, France, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates, have been allowed to travel to Bali which is famous for its emerald rice terraces, Hindu temples and white-sand beaches.
Indonesia has reopened tourism on the "Island of Gods" as 99 percent of the Balinese have received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccines and more than 80 percent have been fully vaccinated.
The Southeast Asian archipelago country has been easing its four-tiered COVID-19 restrictions on public activities, locally known as PPKM, following a drop in the number of new cases, deaths and hospitalizations.
"We feel excited and happy about the reopening of Bali," Ardana, who is also the head of the Association of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA) in Bali, told Xinhua on Friday.
"But we are aware that once it's reopened, tourists won't come immediately," he added.
Until the second day of the reopening, no international flights from those countries have arrived at I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport, according to the Bali provincial administration.
In an interview with Xinhua on Friday, the Bali tourism agency's head I Putu Astawa explained that the requirements for international visitors allowed to visit Bali, such as visas, were just newly arranged.
"This is why no international flights have landed at Ngurah Rai until now," Astawa said, expecting that the international tourists would start visiting the resort island in November.
Patience is bitter, but its fruit is likely to be sweeter.
"It seems like we still really need to wait," Ardana said, adding that it was still unclear which airlines would carry tourists from those permitted countries to Bali.
The Indonesian government has required international visitors who want to visit Bali to be fully-vaccinated and quarantined in hotels for five days at their own expenses and follow strict visa requirements under new entry rules.
According to Ardana, tourists from countries in Europe would not consider the mandatory quarantine requirement as a problem since their length of stay in Bali usually reaches up to three weeks.
Instead, that requirement could be a problem for tourists coming from Asian countries, such as China, South Korea and Japan. "Their average length of stay is five days," he explained.
Earlier, Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said that the reopening of tourism both in Bali and Riau Islands provinces will be evaluated periodically.
All eyes will be on Indonesia, Southeast Asia's biggest economy, as in 2022 Bali will host the G20 Summit. Last week, President Joko Widodo visited the location where the summit will take place.
Indonesia, home to some 270 million people, is racing to inoculate 208.26 million people against COVID-19.
To date, at least 105.46 million people in the country have taken their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, 61.39 million have been fully vaccinated, and some 1.05 million Indonesians have received the third dose, according to figures from the country's Health Ministry.
Pandjaitan has expressed his hope that the reopening of the tourism would boost the economy of Bali which mostly depends on the tourism industry.
Ardana is also hopeful that the government would persistently discuss the tourism reopening with other stakeholders. "Tourism can't be done by one person or one party alone," he said.
"There must still be communications so that we can decide which way is the best for the tourism industry to recover back to before," Ardana added. Enditem