On Saturday, Bali's Governor announced Indonesia will not open its borders in September, and the island will remain closed to international tourists until the end of 2020...
Ever since the Coronavirus pandemic forced Indonesia to close its borders back in March 2020, all eyes have been on the government to see when (and how) the borders will reopen to international travellers. However, on Saturday 22nd August, Bali’s Governor, I Wayan Koster, announced that Bali will remain closed until the end of 2020.
In a formal statement, the Governor announced that the proposed reopening date on September 11th will not go ahead, because Indonesia is still considered a red zone amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. As such, he has declared that the current situation in Indonesia is not yet conducive to allowing foreign tourists to visit Indonesia (including Bali) and the Temporary Prohibition of Foreigners from Entering the Territory of the Republic of Indonesia is still in effect.
Koster also pointed out that most countries around the world have not yet allowed their citizens to travel freely overseas, suggesting that Indonesia will follow suit. He points out that the COVID-19 pandemic is still increasing, and reopening would threaten the health and safety of a country’s citizens. Koster referenced the strict protocols in Australia, China, Korea and Japan, whose citizens may not be able to travel until 2021 (and who also happen to be the main nationalities that visit Bali each year).
However, despite the continued closure of Indonesia’s international borders, the Central Government strongly supports Bali’s plan to restore tourism – albeit with caution. Bali will begin by optimising domestic tourism first, whilst careful preparation, planning and procedures can be put in place for when Bali can safely reopen for international tourism.
In early July, Bali’s Governor released a gradual Three-Phase Reopening Plan, with Phase One and Two now underway. As part of Koster’s reopening plan, domestic tourists can now travel freely from around Indonesia to and from Bali, providing they arrive with a negative rapid test and follow all stipulated safety protocols. Phase Three is now postponed until further notice.
So what is the Three-Phase Reopening Plan for Bali?
Phase One of Reopening
The first phase of reopening began on July 9th, 2020, aimed predominantly at the reopening of local businesses and trades. According to the National Task Force for the Acceleration of Handling Covid-19, Phase 1 allows the operation of local businesses, venues and commerce, including health services, restaurants, government offices, customs, local and traditional markets, transportation, agriculture and places of worship, to name just a few. Tourism attractions, however, remained closed until Phase 2.
Phase Two of Reopening
The second phase of reopening began on July 31st 2020. In Phase 2, Bali reopened the island to all domestic tourists, including tourism attractions, such as waterfalls, temples, beaches and places of interest, as well as tourism activities and tours. This means that Indonesian tourists (and foreigners currently in Indonesia) are now able to travel and explore the island for the purpose of tourism.
Phase Three of Reopening
The third and final phase of reopening includes the plan to reopen Bali to international tourism and foreign travellers. Phase 3 was rumoured to begin on September 11th 2020, however, as mentioned above, this has now been suspended until the end of 2020, subject to Covid-19 developments. Once Phase 3 is finally underway, all tourism activities in Bali will be open for international visitors with strict health protocols in place, including the wearing of masks and social distancing.
Note: To date, there has been no mention of when visa applications will resume, and the Immigration Office is still only open for very limited services that do not include tourist or temporary stay visas. Currently, all Indonesian visa applications have been suspended until further notice, and only Indonesian citizens and foreigners with KITAS or KITAP visas can enter the country, providing they possess a negative PCR test within the past 7 days.