Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno has asked businesspeople to consider working from Bali to help revive the resort island’s economy, which has been hammered by the pandemic.
“I invite businesspeople and professionals to consider working from Bali for two reasons, first is because we can work efficiently while enjoying Bali’s natural beauty and second, we can also help Bali’s tourism and creative industry,” he said in a statement on Friday.
The minister, who is currently working from Bali to inspect the tourism industry, said he also invited expatriates in the country to join the campaign while maintaining strict health protocols.
The Bali government, Sandiaga added, would prepare “Work from Bali” and “Study from Bali” travel packages that will be marketed soon.
The initiative comes just two weeks after the Bali Immigration Office deported expats Kristen Gray and her partner for “spreading information that unsettles local residents” after allegedly giving tips to foreigners to visit Bali during the pandemic.
Bali, whose tourism accounts for more than half of its economy, recorded a 12.28 percent year-on-year (yoy) contraction in its gross regional product in the third quarter last year, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS).
Due to the slump in travel demand, an estimated 70 percent of the 326,000 small and medium enterprises (SME) in the province’s food and beverage and creative economy sectors have closed. The rest have reported a 50 percent drop in revenue, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) supported the government’s initiative. PHRI chairman Hariyadi Sukamdani said the packages would consist of bundled hotel and airfares and that the campaign was made to help said industries to survive the pandemic.
“But we don’t expect this [plan] to help the Bali tourism industry much. This is mainly our effort to prevent hotels from shutting down,” he told The Jakarta Post on Friday adding that once hotels had closed down it would be expensive for them to reopen.
Hariyadi went on to say that the program was targeted toward families with schoolchildren as a chance for the kids to break boredom from studying at their homes in the past year, as well as people that could work remotely.
He said the program was currently focused only on Bali because of its heavy reliance on tourism, especially foreign tourists.
Andalas University Tourism Development Center director Sari Lenggogeni said that while she saw the benefit of such a campaign, she added that central and local government should consider the island’s COVID-19 positivity rate and hospital room availability.
“The government has yet to operate on a paradigm of flattening the [COVID-19] curve and they should. The tourism industry can continue to operate, but it is a matter of how to avoid more transmission,” she told the Post in an interview on Friday.
Sari called on the government to implement stricter testing, tracing and treatment (3T) measures, conduct safety and cleanliness certification for tourist destinations to make sure that local people are also safe from the virus and implement crowd control and a quota system at tourist spots to prevent them from overcrowding.
“This [campaign] is a kind of an intervention on the tourism demand side and if done too much, it can result in more coronavirus cases. I believe it is better for the government to intervene on the supply side by giving tax breaks or stimulus packages for industry players,” she said.
Indonesia surpassed on Thursday over 1 million COVID-19 cases with Bali reporting 366 cases on that day.
Indonesia has been looking to revive the tourism industry by focusing on increasing the number of domestic tourists, especially as other countries are keeping their borders closed due to the pandemic.
“Forget about foreign tourists. We should focus on creating more domestic tourists,” said Sandiaga during a webinar hosted by Media Group News on Thursday, adding that the ministry had prepared five quick wins for the tourism industry this year.
The five quick wins are to continue implementing strict health protocols, accelerate safety and cleanliness certification for hotels, create new tourist destinations, conduct crowd control by implementing electronic Health Access Cards (e-HAC) for tourists and create more segmented and targeted marketing toward local tourists.
Domestic flight passengers picked up by 33.43 percent month-to-month (mtm) to 3 million in November 2020, according to BPS data. But the number was still 55.28 percent lower than in the same month in 2019.
Indonesia Tourism Forum chairman Sapta Nirwandar said one of the challenges in attracting more domestic tourists was promoting less popular destinations, such as East Nusa Tenggara and Sulawesi.
“Promoting these local destinations is important so that when people travel, they do not overcrowd the already popular destinations,” he said, referring to places such as Yogyakarta and Bali.