The health minister of Indonesia said that it will be at least another year until Bali opens to international tourists.
The statement has prompted a backlash from public figures and tourism players in the economically-battered province.
According to reports, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said that officials have set a timeline to reopen Bali to foreign tourism in April 2022.
The current plan appears to involve a rigorous vaccination program and trial-runs on areas designated as “green zones,” which comprise Ubud, Nusa Dua, and Sanur.
“We will begin very soon. I have already met with the governor [to] prepare to make Bali the healthiest tourist destination. This requires time,” Budi said, as quoted by Tribun.
“Ideally, Bali must be declared safe to visit after WHO and UNICEF agrees to conduct an international meeting in Bali,” he added, while emphasizing that reopening Bali must be done as carefully as possible, not merely quickly.
Budi’s announcement comes as the first indication of a potential timeline for Bali’s reopening, after Governor Wayan Koster last week said that the designated green zones are part of a new “COVID-19 safe travel” strategy, which involves a “Free COVID Corridor” program.
However, given that Bali’s economy has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, some were quick to scrutinize the potential timeline.
“As a tourism player, we hope that Bali can open to [foreign] tourism this coming April or May. By making safe zones,” Putu Winastra, who is a member of the Indonesian Association of Tours and Travel (ASITA), said.
Meanwhile, Balinese designer and politician Niluh Djelantik also took to Instagram to voice her concerns.
“Bali and other tourism-dependent regions are dying, minister. If you want to make a decision like this, it should be combined with real actions so that the economy in Bali can continue moving even if it’s slow. Such as free vaccines for domestic tourists,” Niluh wrote.
Koster previously explained that tens of thousands of those residing and conducting activities within the green zones will be vaccinated as part of the program, though he has yet to disclose further details on what the strategy entails.
Epidemiologists have also warned against the feasibility of Bali’s planned green zones with the province’s current COVID-19 approach, saying that officials must achieve some important targets, including going at least two weeks without reporting any deaths, before even considering to relaunch mass tourism.