Local News

Travel restriction haunts near-collapse travel agencies in Bali

Bali’s travel agencies association is calling for the island to be reopened to tourists as most of its members only have financial capability to weather the crisis until July. The plea comes following the government’s decision to maintain travel restrictions on the tourist-packed island.

The Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA) of Bali expected the government to finish the new normal protocol stipulation by the end of the month and reopen the island to tourists by July to prevent travel companies from collapsing.

“Tour operators haven’t earned any income since March and we can only last until July. Therefore, we expect Bali to be open really soon,” ASITA Bali secretary I Putu Winastra said during an online discussion held by the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry on June 18.

Putu fears that the collapse of travel agencies would not only cause massive layoffs but also affect the island’s economy, as 80 percent of Bali’s economy comes from tourism and its related industries. Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport accounts for 63 percent of foreign tourist visits using through air gates, and 38 percent of overall foreign tourist visits in 2019, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data show.

National COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo on June 17 said that both the agency and Bali’s local administration agreed not to reopen Bali in the near future, amid the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“The result of our discussions with several regional leaders, including the Bali governor, was that we have decided not to open Bali yet,” Doni said in a hearing with House of Representatives Commission X overseeing tourism.

Bali’s provincial administration also recently reported an increasing number of local COVID-19 transmissions on the island, causing the government to ban activities involving large groups of people, including traditional and religious activities.

The island had recorded 1,080 cases as of Monday, ranking 11th in provinces across the archipelago, with nine deaths and 615 recoveries. That compares with 46,845 COVID-19 cases across Indonesia on Monday, with 150 dead and 18,735 recovered.

The Tourism Ministry’s director for tourism marketing Vinsensius Jemadu said the government was taking a cautious stance and had set strict standards before deciding to reopen tourist destinations and the country’s borders.

“We have to take careful considerations and require strict standards when we try to open our borders. We also require our provinces and islands to pass the requirements [before reopening],” he said.

Even if the government decided to reopen Bali and welcome back tourists, there are still other challenges facing travel agencies on the island, an expert warned.

A tourism expert at Thailand’s Thammasat University, Walter Jamieson, said travel agencies must be able to strike a delicate balance between letting their guests experiencing their vacation without fear of COVID-19 infection while also applying a strict protocol to protect them from the virus.

“There’s always a tension for travel destinations between appearing too regulated and maintaining safety. People want to have a good time and not think about handwashing and whatnot during a vacation, but we have to follow all health and safety protocols” he said during the discussion.

The government is aiming to create “travel bubbles” with China, South Korea, Japan and Australia to attract travelers and businesspeople, despite COVID-19 infections nationwide showing no signs of slowing down.

The term “travel bubble” or “travel corridor” refers to an agreement in which countries that are successfully containing the outbreak can open their borders to each other to allow free movement within the bubble. (thejakarta post.com 25/06/2020)


Through UNICEF, Australia disburses $3.3 million to aid Indonesia’s COVID-19 response

Australia is set to disburse aid totaling AU$4.9 million (US$3.3 million) to the United Nations Children’s Fund to support Indonesia’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

In a joint statement, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta and UNICEF said that with the new funding, they would work together “to maintain essential health services in communities, strengthen the health system, improve basic water, sanitation and hygiene practices [and] supply critical goods”.

The aid would also be utilized to make sure that women, children and vulnerable communities have access to nutrition interventions.

“As a close friend and long-term partner to Indonesia whose futures are inseparable, we have a shared interest in combating COVID-19 and its impacts and Australia is pleased to partner with UNICEF to support immediate health and humanitarian needs,” Australian Ambassador to Indonesia Gary Quinlan said on Monday.

UNICEF has been working closely with Indonesia to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on communities, including to deliver life-saving medical supplies and support the continuation of health and nutrition services, provide essential water and sanitation activities and keep children connected to education, the statement read.

Australia has also changed the orientation of its development program in Indonesia to respond directly to the global pandemic, including pouring out an additional AU$21 million in immediate support to Indonesia’s health, humanitarian and economic response.

“With millions of Indonesian children and families at risk of lifelong consequences from COVID-19, the contribution from Australia comes at a pivotal and opportune moment,” UNICEF representative Debora Comini said.

“It will help UNICEF support government health services [and] expand community outreach programs and public awareness campaigns in response to the pandemic.”

Previously, Australia disbursed aid totaling AU$6.2 million to support Indonesia’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts through the World Health Organization.

Australia’s neighbor New Zealand had also contributed to Jakarta’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts by disbursing aid totaling NZ$5 million (US$3 million). (thejakartapost.com 25/06/2020)


Bali official cautions closure of spiritual community after controversial crowded event

Gianyar regent I Made Mahayastra has reportedly cautioned the closure of spiritual community House of Om following an event last week that drew dozens of people who blatantly ignored social distancing protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Made Gede Wisnu Wijaya, secretary of the Gianyar regency, confirmed that the regent directly admonished House of Om during a meeting this morning, adding that community founder Wissam Barakeh had promised to not make the same mistake.

“The presence of [the guests] were unplanned, and the regent has firmly said that if he repeated [the act], the sanction is closure [of House of Om],” Wisnu said.

House of Om has been the subject of online ire since the weekend for allegedly hosting a crowded gathering last Thursday, following the circulation of photos believed to have been from the event, which showed dozens of people gathering in close proximity with no masks on. Many were upset that the spiritual community/holistic school held the event despite the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Bali and the rest of Indonesia.

Officials said that, during the meeting, Barakeh said he had no intention to violate existing health protocols amid the coronavirus outbreak. However, a now-deleted post on Instagram by House of Om which invited people to join them for the event included their intention to gather more than 100 people “in order to co-create an amazing celebration together.”

Bali reported 36 additional COVID-19 cases today, bringing the provincial tally to 1,116, which includes 639 recoveries and nine deaths. The province has also been recording rising cases of local transmissions, which now makes up more than half of its total caseload.

Barakeh initially denied to a local media outlet that the photos were from a recent event, but eventually took to Instagram yesterday morning to apologize and claim full responsibility for the event that did take place on June 18.

Barakeh confirmed this morning’s meeting with Gianyar regent to Coconuts Bali via WhatsApp, adding that he will be issuing an official statement. We will update this story as soon as we hear back from him. (Coconuts.co 23/06/2020)


What to expect from your ‘new normal’ trip to Bali

Tourism is the beating heart of Bali’s economy as around 60 percent of the island’s gross regional product (PDRB) comes from the travel industry.

Unfortunately, tourism is one of the sectors hardest-hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, affecting the lives of Bali residents and changing the way people visit the island.

According to Indonesian Tourist Industry Association (GIPI) data, the number of foreign tourist arrivals in Bali dropped by 93.24 percent in April. Since this has greatly affected the economy, the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA) in Bali has pleaded with the government to complete the so-called “new normal” protocol stipulations by the end of the month and reopen the island to tourists by July to prevent travel companies from collapsing.

Tourism stakeholders, such as the Bali Hotels Association, an organization with over 158 members, comprising general managers of hotels and resorts on the island, have also prepared new protocols to welcome travelers. The association representative told The Jakarta Post via email that they had prepared health and safety guidelines for hotels, while also conducting a publicity campaign on Bali, which is aimed at reminding the world’s travelers about the island.

Here are several things that travelers can expect to experience during their next trip to Bali.

Buffet no more

Social distancing will be commonly practiced in every part of the island. However, hotels such as Belmond Jimbaran Puri, The Mulia, Mulia Resorts and Villas, Nusa Dua, and the Marriott hotel chain have also prepared other protocols to ensure their guests’ health and safety.

Belmond Jimbaran Puri, slated to reopen on July 1, will be applying an online check-in process and adjustments to dining and housekeeping services.

“Guests who have booked with us directly will be able to complete the check-in process online prior to arrival,” said Belmond Jimbaran Puri general manager Charles Kneipp.

As for the dining experience, Kneipp said that guests could opt for breakfast served by a dedicated butler in their villa or outdoors at the hotel’s Nelayan restaurant. The property will also be replacing menu books with chalkboards or a single-use menu made of recyclable material.

With regard to housekeeping, Kneipp mentioned that the staff members would refrain from entering rooms while guests are present.

The Mulia, Mulia Resort and Villas will also apply similar protocols. In addition to sanitizing all areas, keeping social distancing and maintaining hygiene, the property will insist that guests shower before entering the pool or using spa facilities and use hand sanitizer before using equipment, anyone who is sick may not use these facilities.

As for the Marriott hotel chain, the company’s marketing vice president for Indonesia Ramesh Jackson said that the organization had created the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council, which focuses on developing the next level of global hospitality cleanliness standards to minimize risk and enhance safety for guests and associates.

“We are rolling out enhanced technologies over the next few months and also adding more hand sanitizer stations near high-traffic areas,” said Jackson, adding that the hotel chains were also testing ultraviolet light technology to sanitize room keys and devices shared by staff members.

Beach clubs with new protocols

Beach clubs, such as Karma Beach Bali in Badung and Artotel Beach Club in Sanur, are among the most popular tourist attractions in Bali.

The former has reopened to guests, starting June 20. In a recent interview with the Post, Karma Group founder and chairman John Spence said it would practice social distancing and ensure reduced density in Karma Beach. Now, the club proudly welcomes guests and claims to be “the most socially distancing aware private beach in Bali.”

Artotel Beach Club has yet to announce its reopening date. However, the management has started working with new protocols.

Artotel Group corporate director of marketing communications, Yulia Maria, said that to practice social distancing, it planned to reduce the capacity of the beach club. The club will run almost the same as in pre-COVID-19 days, however, it will now be mandatory for guests to wear face masks while in the hotel and restaurant areas.

Safer dine-in restaurants

Bali is also home to many international restaurants. While some eateries are still offering takeaway services, Mozaic Restaurant in Ubud is now implementing new protocols.

Helmed by Chris Salan, the restaurant now conducts body temperature screening tests for both guests and staff members.

It also applies 2-meter distancing between guests and staff members. To ensure hygiene, the staff members are required to wear face masks, goggles and gloves.

Dancers armed with hand sanitizers

Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) Cultural Park, home to the iconic 21-story monument depicting Hindu deity Vishnu, in Badung regency, has also prepared new protocols.

The park’s marketing communication and event general manager Andre R. Prawiradisastra said during a recent virtual event held by travel media DestinAsian Indonesia that they would also apply social distancing, provide hand sanitizers for visitors and conduct body temperature screening.

“There will be dancers distributing hand sanitizers to visitors,” said Andre. (TheJakartapost.com 26/06/2020)


Bali Plans to Restore Tourist Confidence and Reopen Borders in September

Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Wishnutama Kusubandio said rebuilding tourist confidence will be key for Bali – Indonesia’s number one tourist island – to recover its economy to pre-pandemic levels.

The minister said on Wednesday during a two-day visit to the Island of the Gods that he appreciated the provincial government’s recent effort to plan phased reopening of the island starting from July.

“Public trust must be earned by preparing and implementing strict health protocols according to new normal guidelines before reopening the tourism sector,” Wishnutama said after a meeting with Bali Governor Wayan Koster in Ubud, Gianyar, on Wednesday.

The minister inspected several popular tourist destinations while on the island, such as Nusa Dua, Tirta Empul Temple and Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park.  Wishnutama gave his support to the Bali provincial government to prepare the three stages needed to reopen the island for business.

“Local governments must prepare thoroughly before reopening the tourism and creative economy sectors. There’s no need to rush. Tourism is highly dependent on tourists’ trust in security and comfort on the island,” he said.

The Bali governor said the provincial government has already prepared the three stages for implementing the new normal health protocol.

“If everything goes according to plan, on July 9 we will start the first stage of reopening several sectors except education and tourism,” Koster said.

In the second stage beginning in August, the island will start welcoming domestic tourists. But this will only happen if the first stage was an unqualified success.

In the third stage in September, Bali will reopen its borders to international tourists.

Koster stressed this is still a plan not a set timeline for implementation.

“Whether or not it will happen will greatly depend on our discipline to implement the health protocol and how local transmissions of Covid-19 in Bali are developing,” he said.

The governor said there had been an increase in Covid-19 cases in Bali recently, especially in Denpasar, Badung, Gianyar and Klungkung.

On Wednesday, Bali reported 30 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, bringing the island’s total to 829.

“We’ve sent a special team to the areas where there’s been an increase in Covid-19 cases. We will make sure there are no more new cases before relaxing more social restrictions,” Koster said.

The governor also said that according to various surveys, Bali has been ranked among the top tourist destinations in the world that tourists want to revisit once the pandemic is over. (Jakartaglobe.com 26/06/2020)


Police arrest 4 men for clubbing dog to death, say suspects planned on cooking it

Police in Bali’s Badung regency have arrested four men after they were caught beating a dog to death last week, and said that the suspects had planned on cooking the canine for a meal.

The gruesome beating was filmed by a bystander from a distance, footage of which quickly went viral on the internet last week and widely condemned by netizens and animal rights activists.

The dog’s owner, identified as Dewi T Manafe, filed a police reportsoon after, and authorities then tracked down the perpetrators after identifying their motorbike plate numbers from available footage.

The four men, identified by their initials GH, AP, KA and MKB, had beaten the dog, identified as 10-year-old Sule, while Dewi was not at home. They arrived at the location and started clubbing Sule with a block of wood, and proceeded to stuff it into a sack before taking it away with them on a motorcycle.

“The suspects confessed to having abused and beaten the dog to death and brought them to their home to be cooked and eaten together,” I Ketut Sukadi, Badung Police spokesman, said in a statement yesterday.

Police have charged the four men with violation of Article 302 on animal abuse under Indonesia’s criminal code (KUHP), which carries a maximum prison sentence of nine months.

Activists in the country have long lamented the lack of enforcement of laws protecting animals, but recent cases of animal abuse in Bali at least have seen authorities prosecuting suspected animal abusers, such as the case of a shopkeeper abusing a three-month old dog in Blahbatuh, Gianyar last year. (Coconuts.co 29/06/2020)


8 arrested as police uncover illicit drug manufacturing located in Bali

The Jakarta Metro Police have named eight suspects for alleged drug manufacturing in Bali, who authorities believe are part of an illicit drug operation controlled by a convict detained in one of Bali’s prisons.

Nana Sudjana, Jakarta Metro Police chief, told reporters in the capital on Monday that the drugs are manufactured in the form of liquid vape and produced in a home industry located in South Kuta, Badung regency.

The illicit drug operation is controlled by a convict identified by the initial K, who is currently serving time in one of Bali’s prisons, Nana said.

Authorities came to discover the alleged drug manufacturing after arresting one of the eight suspects, identified as FA, in Cawang, East Jakarta earlier this month.

“FA was arrested on June 12 around Cawang, East Jakarta with five bottles of liquid drugs as evidence. We looked more into it and found that it was acquired from Bali,” Nana said.

Police say that the illegal business started operating in January, and the items have been sold online both in Bali and Jakarta for billions of rupiah in profit every month.

“This syndicate has been playing between provinces and islands, from Jakarta, West Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra, and Bali. Their turnover is in the billions of rupiah,” Nana added.

The drug manufacturing evidently uses synthetic tobacco imported from China, the procurement of which is also handled by K, according to authorities. Police say they found 24 kilograms of this item at the Bali home industry, along with seven liters of liquid vape and 500 grams of cannabinoid powder.

Under Indonesia’s 2009 Narcotics Law, the suspects individually face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. (Coconuts.co 30/06/2020)