Local News

Bali named fourth-most popular global destination on TripAdvisor

Bali has been recognized as one of the most popular destinations in the world, according to travel platform TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards of 2020.

Winners of the awards are chosen based on the quantity and quality of user reviews and ratings, and are now honored as “Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best”, Trip Advisor’s top 1 percent of listings.

“This has been a tough year for our industry, but the global desire to go and explore, whether the destination is an hour away or across the world, remains strong,” said TripAdvisor chief experience and brand officer Lindsay Nelson in a statement. “The Travelers’ Choice program is one way that travelers and diners can benefit from the real-life experiences of other people so they can plan their perfect trip that meets their needs, budget and style.”

London ranks first on the popular destinations list, followed by Paris and Greece’s Crete in second and third place respectively.
Indonesia’s very own paradise ranked fourth and was noted for its “stretch of fine white sand” and “lush jungle”.

“Bali is a living postcard, an Indonesian paradise that feels like a fantasy”, it said on the website.

TripAdvisor also recommended three attractions on the island, namely Kelingking Beach, the Sekumpul Waterfalls and Luhur Batukaru Temple.
Bali reopened for domestic tourists on July 31, and international tourists will be welcomed on September 11.

The Travelers’ Choice Awards also recognized Padma Hotel in Bandung, West Java, as the number one family hotel in Asia, as well as Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara as the number six trending destination for its beaches, diving spots and hiking options. (Thejakartapost.com 06/08/2020)

Balinale rescheduled to May 2021

The annual Bali International Film Festival (Balinale) has announced that its 14th edition has been rescheduled to May 2021.

“Because of the recent announcement by the Indonesian Cinema Owners Association (GPBSI) to delay the planned July 29 reopening of theaters to the general public, we decided it would be in the best interests of all Balinale participants to move the festival to May 2021,” said founder of Balinale, Deborah Gabinetti, in a statement.

Additionally, Balinale plans to launch new programs, including the Hong Kong Film Gala Presentation in collaboration with the Asian Film Awards Academy (AFAA), a Hong-Kong based organization that aims to promote and develop Asian cinema.

The Hong Kong Film Gala Presentation will feature award-winning films and gather prominent figures in the industry from both countries.

Balinale has also teamed up with the United States-based Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival to create the American-Indonesian Cultural & Educational Foundation’s (AICEF) Price for Cross-Cultural Filmmaking program. The program is searching for first or second-time feature-filmmakers who promote cross-cultural themes in their works, either in the form of a narrative or a documentary.

Founded in 2007, Balinale aims to promote talented filmmakers in Indonesia and establish the country as one of the top destinations for entertainment production in Southeast Asia. (wir/wng)

Russian woman deported for illegally operating beauty clinic with visa on arrival

Authorities this morning deported a Russian woman, identified as Iuliia Mamaev, for illegally working as a medical aesthetician during her stay in Bali.

According to the Bali office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, which handles immigration-related matters, Mamaev entered Indonesia through Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport on a visa on arrival in February, meaning she was not permitted to work during her stay.

“She was deported early Tuesday morning. She violated the terms of her visa, which was just a visa on arrival, yet she opened an aesthetician practice in Mengwi, Badung,” ministry spokesman Surya Dharma said today.

For her violations under Indonesia’s Immigration Law, Mamaev was deported and has been banned from entering Indonesia for the next six months.

It’s not immediately clear if she’s a medically licensed aesthetician in her home country.

Mamaev was the latest Russian national to be deported from Indonesia for administrative violations in Bali. According to the Ministry of Law and Human Rights data, in the first half of 2020, citizens from the transcontinental nation dominated Bali’s deportation list.

Among other Russians to be nabbed by authorities include Russian yoga instructors Rodion Antonkin and Albina Mukhamadullina, who were recently deported to their home country for holding a mass yoga session sans COVID-19 health protocols at a villa in Ubud in the middle of July.

In mid-July, a Russian tourist was detained for taking shelter around the premises of Ngurah Rai Airport, saying that he had been stranded on the island for the past month. He was scheduled for deportation after authorities in Bali coordinated with the Russian Consulate.

Bali’s ‘new era’ will focus more on local resources over tourism, governor says

Talks of a “new era” in Bali appear to be slightly moving forward with Bali Governor Wayan Koster declaring more specifics about focusing on local resources to develop the economy, in order to reduce the province’s dependence on tourism.

“My agenda for the next two years consists of preparing an ecosystem that balances the fundamentals of Bali’s economy. It covers tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing,” Koster said on Saturday.

Bali’s economy is the hardest hit in the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with Bank Indonesia (BI) reporting an economic slowdownof 10.98 percent in the province for the second quarter of this year.

As Indonesia’s top tourist destination, the global halt in travel has resulted in a massive decline for Bali’s tourism industry, which reportedly contributes between 54 to 58 percent to the province’s economy.

“To be able to carry out these economic fundamentals, it must be supported with infrastructure. Developing land, sea, and air infrastructure that are connected and integrated. We will make it happen one by one,” he continued.

This latest statement indicates the current administration’s seriousness to boost other sectors of the local economy, which Koster said will be focused on available local resources, including the development of creative and innovative goods.

Bali certainly holds plenty of potential in this regard, including its own traditional liquor, arak, which can be expected to bring more commercial opportunities across the island after it was legalizedearlier this year.

Bali releases 10,000 baby turtles

More than 10 000 baby turtles were released into the sea off the Indonesian island of Bali on Friday, as part of conservationists’ attempts to boost the population of a vulnerable species and promote environmental protection.

Conservation groups carried crates each full of dozens of tiny turtles to the island’s Gianyar beach and encouraged local people and volunteers to line up on the sand and release the hatchlings together.

The turtles, just a few inches long, scurried over the black sand and pebbles as the tide splashed over them.

“It’s really exciting to see all of these turtles being released into the wild,” said American volunteer Jessica Lieberman, adding she hoped they would survive.

The Olive Ridley turtles are among the most abundant sea turtles but are still considered vulnerable because there are few places in which they will nest.

The turtles should typically weigh between 34-50 kg (75-110 lbs) as an adult and grow to 60-70cm long (24-28 inches).

Flavianus Erwin Putranto, a conservation volunteer, said turtle eggs were appearing in fewer places on Bali than before, but programmes to help protect them were seeing success.

“We are able to collect and save them. Hopefully we can hatch more turtles and release them back into the ocean,” He said.

Sea turtle populations have declined in recent years due to hunting, loss of beach nesting sites, over-harvesting of their eggs and being caught in fishing gear.

Bali authorities released 25 of the larger green turtles into the sea on Wednesday after their rescue last month during a raid on illegal traffickers.

Agus Budi Santoso, head of the Bali Natural Resources and Conservation Center, recommended creating a “green zone” of designated beaches for turtles to lay eggs safely, away from hotels and constriction sites.

Ministry considers localized travel bubble to accelerate tourist industry recovery

As the country continues to record among the lowest testing rates in the region at 1.2 tests per 1,000 population as of June 15 according to ourworldindata.org, it has now begun easing restrictions and is seemingly looking into creating a “travel bubble”.

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.

Earlier this month, Singapore said it would announce a “fast lane” arrangement with China, while Thailand was in talks to create travel bubbles for tourism that would allow the quarantine-free flow of people between Bangkok and a few cities in China, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Teuku Faizasyah said Indonesia was paying close attention to such a trend, but officials were still discussing ways to have such a “travel corridor”.

The Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister has been discussing the issue with the Foreign Ministry, as well as the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, with an official saying that they had specifically looked to China, South Korea, Japan and Australia to boost Indonesia’s tourism recovery.

“The four countries were chosen because many tourists and foreign investors in Indonesia come from those countries,” the office’s undersecretary for tourism and creative economy, Odo Manuhutu, said on Friday.

Indonesia saw its visitors from China declining by 72.33 percent, South Korea by 41.65 percent, Japan by 45,57 percent and Australia by 33,93 percent in the first quarter of 2020 from the same period last year according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data. In general, the country has recorded a 45.01 percent decline in foreign visitors over the same period.

Despite the plan, Odo said businesspeople would probably be the first and only ones to travel to and from those countries in the near future, as he pinned hopes that tourists would gradually follow.

Odo said the Foreign Ministry was still discussing the requirements for the establishment of travel bubbles before signing an agreement with the four countries.

He added that the basis to negotiate a travel bubble was when countries had no new cases, and currently in the Asia Pacific region, only Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan meet the criteria. Meanwhile, in ASEAN, he said, only Vietnam and Thailand were so far fit for the plan to create travel bubbles.

For Indonesia, the most realistic plan was to have strict COVID-19 control on selected islands such as Bali, but only after authorities expanded and improved testing, tracing and isolation within the next month, Dicky said.

As the country enters the so-called new normal, the COVID-19 task force is continuously mapping regions into three categories: green zones, or cities and regencies not recording any confirmed COVID-19 cases; yellow zones, or low-risk regions with contained spread but with possible transmission; and red zones.

However, Tri Yunis Miko, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, said the maps had only portrayed surveillance data of certain regions rather than a look into how far the virus had actually spread in its population.

He said a further antibody study was important to discover the percentage of the population who had contracted and were still infected by the virus.

Only then could the government start mapping regions it might open to tourists, but even then there would always be the possibility of transmission, Tri said.

“If it’s because of the economy, then the protocols must be stricter […] If they want to take a risk, then each country should equally take the risk,” he said.

Tri said the health protocols must be made equal between partnering countries, including PCR tests and a 14-day mandatory quarantine with health authorities also monitoring tourists’ health conditions daily while tracking their movements through their phones.

For business purposes, quarantine might not be mandatory but foreigners must not stay longer than one week, which was also the incubation period of the virus, he said.

COVID-19 task force chief Doni Monardo said the government was still mulling over reopening tourism spots, including by assessing places into low-risk and high-risk areas. As for Bali, Doni said the local administration had requested not to reopen the resort island as it looked into improving testing capacity in its port.

“We’re certain that with caution, we’ll rebuild the trust of domestic and foreign tourists in choosing their desired tourism spots,” he said.

Indonesia Tourism Intellectuals Association (ICPI) chairman Azril Azahari said he doubted foreign tourists’ trust in visiting Indonesia could be rebuilt soon as long as the country did not come up to par with other countries in terms of health protocols and COVID-19 containment efforts.

Indonesia starts phase 3 trial for COVID-19 vaccine, Sinovac reports phase 2 details

Indonesia on Tuesday (Aug 11) started a late-stage human trial of a Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine that will involve as many as 1,620 patients.
The vaccine candidate, produced by Sinovac Biotech, is among just a few in the world to enter phase 3 clinical trials, or large-scale testing on humans – the last step before regulatory approval.

Sinovac released details on Monday from a mid-stage or phase 2 study in which it said the vaccine candidate appeared to be safe and induced detectable antibody-based immune responses in subjects.

The vaccine candidate, known as CoronaVac, is also undergoing a late-stage trial in Brazil, and Sinovac expects to also test it in Bangladesh.

Sinovac’s Indonesia trial comes as Southeast Asia’s most populous country grapples with spiking infection numbers, with over 127,000 cases recorded as of Tuesday. The trial has so far recruited 1,215 people and will last six months.

“The threat of COVID-19 will not subside until a vaccine is given to all the people,” said Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a ceremony to launch the trial in Bandung, West Java.

It is where state-owned pharmaceutical firm Bio Farma will begin production of the potential vaccine.

“Hopefully in January, we can produce and vaccinate everyone in the country,” Widodo added.

In addition to Bio Farma and Sinovac, private Indonesian firm Kalbe Farma and South Korea’s Genexine are cooperating to produce a separate vaccine. It is yet unclear how many doses these partnerships will produce and by when.

In Sinovac’s mid-stage trial involving 600 participants in China, the rate of fever in patients was relatively lower than other COVID-19 candidates including one from AstraZeneca, the study showed ahead of peer review.

Mid-stage trials usually test a candidate’s safety and ability to trigger an immune response in a relatively small number of people before it enters late-stage tests.

The study noted that the process to make the vaccines used in the phase 2 trial was more optimised than in phase 1, which produced more immunogens and triggered better immune responses.

Vaccines used in the late-stage trials will be made using the optimised process, a Sinovac spokesman said.

The Phase 2 results only included antibody-based immunity, the researchers said, adding that the candidate was being evaluated for other important components of the immune system.

Sinovac is testing its vaccine abroad because China is no longer a satisfactory site for late-stage trials due to the low number of new infection cases.