Despite borders being closed and Australia’s favourite holiday island off limits to foreign tourists, Bali Governor I Wayan Koster has highlighted three popular regions which may be open to international visitors sooner than expected.
According to local media Coconuts, three popular tourist destinations in Bali – being Ubud, Sanur and Nusa Dua – have been listed as ‘green zones’ for possible international travel bubbles.
Koster explained the concept was part of a new COVID-19 “safe travel” strategy, and is a decision made under instructions and approval from Indonesia’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno.
“This ‘Free COVID Corridor Program’ is a precondition for steps to reopen tourism to foreign tourists,” Mr Koster said at a press conference in Denpasar, according to Coconuts.
The Governor explained that the ‘green zones’ are part of a corridor program which will see residents vaccinated in the listed regions first, alongside anyone who conducts activities in the designated areas.
More than 50,000 people in Ubud are expected to vaccinated as part of the program, as well as more than 60,000 people in Nusa Dua and nearly 27,000 people in Sanur, according to local media.
The rollout is the first sign of light for the holiday island which has been decimated by the ongoing border closures caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this month, ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program provided a chilling account of how badly once booming parts of Bali had suffered.
Prior to COVID-19, Bali was one of the top overseas destinations for Australians, with around one million people heading over to lap up Bintangs and explore hidden beaches every year.
But now, the island paradise sits in ruins with some resorts completely vacant and the once bustling Denpasar airport largely empty.
With 80 per cent of Bali’s economy relying on tourism, the pandemic has forced locals to confront the truth that has kept the island afloat for so long — “that its economy is addicted to tourism”.
Since the closure of the island’s border to foreign tourists, locals have been forced to turn their back on the industry that once provided so much for their economy.
Some have moved back to their home village, others have returned to farming seaweed in the waters that were used by tourists for boat tours.
While Bali has been through slumps before, mainly the Kuta bombings in 2002 and eruptions of Mount Agung in the years since, locals believe the island will never recover to its pre-pandemic self.
Prior to the pandemic being declared in March 2020, Bali expected more than seven million visitors to visit the region
Indonesia’s COVID-19 outbreak is one of the worst in the region, with more than 36,000 recorded deaths and 1.3 million confirmed cases.
Bali was initially looking much stronger in terms of low case numbers, which prompted the Governor to open up the island to domestic tourists last August, but within a few months the holiday island’s death toll increased five-fold.