The Indonesian government is reportedly in the middle of drawing up plans for a ‘travel bubble’ between Australia and three other Asia Pacific countries, in a desperate bid to boost tourism.
According to Odo Manuhutu, deputy co-ordinating Minister maritime affairs and investment, the travel bubble would be between China, South Korea, Japan and Australia.
“For the initial stage we are opening [our borders] firstly to those four countries, and other countries will follow suit, and of course health protocols will be prioritised,” he said at a virtual news conference.
According to local media, the plan would involve implementing a criteria for foreign travellers permitted to visit the country, which would include the offering of packages for “in-city tourism”. According to Coconuts, these packages would be “ladened with strict health protocols, as part of an effort to revive domestic tourism”.
“After the criteria are made, negotiations will be held with those countries for two, three or four weeks. When agreements are reached, the travel bubbles will be opened,” the deputy minister said.
“In addition to the high level of tourists, there are also business interests with these four countries as well.”
It is understood the four countries were selected as corridor partners given “their investment has helped Indonesia’s economy a lot”.
Critics of the bubble have already questioned whether the discussions are too premature, given that numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to climb in some parts of Indonesia and now China.
Indonesia has officially recorded more than 39,000 COVID-19 cases and 2198 deaths. It’s not the first time a corridor has been suggested between Bali and Australia.
Last month, hotels and resorts pointed to an early-July reopening to receive guests to the popular holiday island. Local authorities and businesses in Bali have floated a proposal to unlock travel restrictions which currently prevent tourists from visiting the island, according to the Financial Review.
The introduction of a bubble or “green lane” between Bali and Australia would allow some movement between regions where COVID-19 infections were low or non-existent. Indonesian Hotel & Restaurant Association (PHRI) chairman Rai Suryawijaya told the publication that some form of allowance for international travel would need to be implemented soon, as Bali’s economy couldn’t hold out much longer.
“The occupancy rate is zero,” he said of accommodation on the island, noting 96 per cent of hotels were closed.
“There are no guests and no flights.
“We have to be careful; we don’t want to start too soon,” he said.
“My prediction is July. Even if we could get 10 flights to land each day, with social distancing restrictions on-board, there may be only 150 people on board each flight so that’s just 1500 arrivals each day. We know occupancy rates will remain low, at least until next year.”
According to the Asian Review the four countries nominated by Indonesia for inclusion in the travel bubble are particularly important for Southeast Asia. China and Japan provided more than a third of foreign direct investment into Indonesia in 2019, while Chinese and Australians together accounted for more than 20 per cent of foreign visitors last year.