On Bali’s idyllic Gili Islands, the music at the Jungle Bar nightclub has been silent ever since the pandemic struck.
Owner Brendan Muir has kept the nightclub and his hostel shut since March last year.
“Pretty much every tourist left straight away, it was really depressing to see how quiet it was,” he says.
“The street was just like a ghost town.
“Every time there’s announcements that the airport’s going to open up there, all the locals get really excited and start making plans, but we’ve had a lot of false starts.”
He’s more hopeful that this time, it might be the real deal and international tourists will start to return to Bali in greater numbers.
This week, Bali started opening up to tourists from 19 countries. But Australia, which sent 1.2 million holidaymakers there in 2019, isn’t on the list.
Australia’s travel ban will be lifted from November 1, enabling tourists to go to places like the UK, which has close to 50,000 cases of COVID-19 a day.
But travel to Indonesia, which is recording fewer than 1,000 daily cases, won’t be allowed.
Indonesian minister says ‘we are ready’
Indonesian Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno says his message to the Australian government is that Indonesia has taken the right steps to welcome back tourists.
“Please be guided by data. We are here, we are ready,” he says.
He wants to reassure Australians that Indonesia has turned a corner, after a devastating outbreak which peaked in July at over 50,000 new cases per day.
“We have instituted social restrictions programs that have, thank God, worked very well at bringing down COVID case numbers.”
But while he says Indonesia is ready to accept tourists, he understands the process of Australia approving travel for tourists will take time.
“Australian tourists are the number one market for Bali in particular, but we just have to understand the Australian government’s decision and priority, and we fully respect that.
“I am 100 per cent sure that the Australian government is making decisions based on the scientific data that they have, and we have to respect that.”
He says discussions he’s had in the past with Australian officials indicated that they were prioritising domestic tourism in 2021 and would look to have more detailed discussions with the Indonesian government about opening tourism in 2022.
Thousands of Balinese tourism operators are waiting anxiously for that to happen.
And so is Mr Muir, who would like to see some of his fellow Australians return.
“They’re pretty important,” he says.
“We all need a few heavy beer drinkers around.”
[Click through to send us your questions about COVID-19]Internet Explorer Channel Network