By Nathan Diller
After a year without tourists, Bali will reopen for foreign travel in February.
Indonesian officials announced Monday that Bali would reopen to all foreign visitors this week, hoping to court them back to an island destination that saw virtually no tourism in 2021 amid strict travel restrictions.
Luhut Pandjaitan, the coordinating minister for maritime affairs and investment, said at a news briefing that beginning Friday, the country would welcome foreigners and reduce the quarantine period for fully vaccinated travellers from seven to five days upon arrival.
The move expands on a limited policy for visitors to the picturesque island destination in Southeast Asia. Indonesia began allowing international flights to Bali from 19 countries - including China, India, France and South Korea - in mid-October.
The announcement comes as Indonesia has seen an uptick in coronavirus cases. According to tracking data compiled by The Washington Post, through Monday, the country had 1,609 reported cases per 100,000 residents, with a 236% increase in daily cases over the past seven days.
Bali, a popular travel destination where many locals rely on income from tourism, was hit hard by the pandemic. With its airport closed to international flights for the majority of 2021, the island saw just 45 foreign visitors between January and October, compared with around 1.05 million in 2020 and 6.2 million in 2019, CNN reported.
Before Bali lifted its international flight ban in October, visitors arrived by yacht. In the first six weeks of reopening, only 153 people had applied for tourist visas, according to an Al Jazeera report.
Indonesia's announcement about Bali comes as other parts of Asia are also reopening. Thailand will resume accepting applications from visitors as part of its "Test and Go Program" on February 1 after an omicron-induced suspension, and the Philippines will welcome vaccinated tourists and travellers on business with no quarantine rule starting February 10.