By Sultan Anshori
Kuta, Indonesia - Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Monday welcomed its first foreign tourists under relaxed coronavirus rules that no longer require arrivals to quarantine, part of a broader easing of curbs in the Southeast Asian country after infections declined.
Known for its surfing, temples, waterfalls and nightlife, Bali drew 6.2 million foreign visitors in 2019, the year before Covid-19 struck. But only a trickle of visitors have returned since Bali started opening up to foreign tourists last October, discouraged by the need to quarantine and other rules.
Under a pilot programme, fully vaccinated tourists now can skip a mandatory three-day quarantine, though they need to remain on the island for four days.
"I think it's good for the island," said Jesse Rayman, 22, a Dutch tourist arriving at Bali's airport on Monday. "I hope everyone is able to travel safely in the future, and coronavirus wouldn't be much an issue anymore."
With tourism normally making up over 50 percent of Bali's economy, many on the island have been desperate to see a faster return of tourists, particularly as some neighbouring countries moved faster.
Thailand and the Philippines already have similar quarantine-free programmes in place for foreign tourists.
Luhut Pandjaitan, a minister overseeing the Covid-19 response in Java and Bali, told a news conference on Monday that if the Bali pilot programme went well, all foreign visitors entering Indonesia would no longer be required to quarantine from April 1 or earlier.