The spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has brought the tourism sector to a screeching halt, resulting in the collapse of tourism-related industries comprising aviation, hotel, restaurant, and other travel and hospitality businesses worldwide.
With the COVID-19 pandemic lingering on since early this year, several nations are currently migrating at a measured pace, from crises management to recovery efforts, especially to breathe new life into the tourism sector that has been the foremost and worst affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Indonesia is one of the nations that is keen to initiate efforts to usher in recovery in their tourism and hospitality industries that have been dealt a debilitating blow by the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, Indonesia’s several regions registered no tourist arrivals, thereby leaving hotels, travel agents, and related services with no choice but to close down.
As the government announced a plan to transition from the large-scale social distancing measures (PSBB) to the new normal concept, several regions are also prepping to revive the tourism industry.
Bali, one of the world’s most popular resort islands, in cooperation with the Tourism Creative Economy Ministry, is currently preparing health protocols for tourism in the new normal.
However, the Bali provincial administration is yet to take a decision on when to reopen the island for tourists.
However, if it is decided to reopen it gradually, the local government will be selective in receiving international tourists and will enforce stringent health protocols.
"At the onset, we will focus on the domestic market, but once the international market opens, we expect tourists from nearby countries, such as Thailand, Myanmar, and Vietnam," I Putu Winastra, secretary of the Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA) of the Bali chapter, had remarked recently.
The Nusa Dua area of Bali is set to be the pilot area for the “new normal” scenario in the tourism sector, he noted.
Nusa Dua was selected for the pilot project based on its strategic and exclusive location, thereby facilitating easier monitoring coupled with several supporting facilities, including accommodation, amenities, and a hospital of international standard.
Health protocols and standard operational procedures will be enforced when tourists arrive at the airport, during their tour, and right until they fly back to their countries of origin.
In the meantime, regional CEO for the Greater Jakarta Region at PT Garuda Indonesia, M. Yansverio, echoed the airline’s readiness to support the industry and government in developing tourism in Bali once the government decides to reopen the area for tourism.
"To welcome the new normal, Garuda Indonesia has applied the protocols of cleanliness, health, and safety (CHS) and explained about the requirements that must be met by air travelers," he informed.
In the meantime, Chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), Bambang Soesatyo, has urged the government to review its visa exemption policy for tourists to prevent the mass spread of COVID-19 infections once the tourism sector reopens.
The visa-free policy must be reviewed, particularly for countries prone to COVID-19," Soesatyo stated during a webinar recently.
Indonesia must strictly scrutinize foreign tourists and ensure they are free from the novel coronavirus disease, he added.
In addition to Bali, other regions making preparations for tourism recovery comprise Aceh, Jakarta, Central Java, and North Sulawesi.
The tourism industry in Aceh Province is ready to embrace the new normal amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Azwani Awi, chairperson of the Indonesian Association of Tourism Businessmen (ASPPI) of Aceh branch, remarked.
Tourist destinations that have abided by the requisite health protocols in the new normal include an urban forest park in Langsa City that, in fact, reopened since Eid al-Fitr (May 24) after been closed since early March 2020.
To prevent the transmission of COVID-19, the park applies government-set health protocols that necessitate every visitor to wear a mask and maintain a safe distance from one another.
"Of course, every visitor undergoes body temperature screening. During this process, the identity of visitors is checked. Thus, if there is a confirmed COVID-19 case, the patient's travel history can be tracked," he expounded.
The Sabang municipality, Aceh, has also permitted to reopen its marine resort and resume operations of modes of sea transportation to Sabang on Weh Island by adhering to the health protocols.
The decision was stipulated in Sabang Mayor's Circular Letter No. 440/3111 on June 1, 2020, Bahru Fikri, the Sabang municipality administrations spokesman, stated.
"Fast boats and ro-ro ferry operate one-round trip per day, with a maximum passenger limit of 50 percent of the normal capacity of the ship, and they must apply the COVID-19 health protocols," he explained.
Local tourists are required to hold Sabang ID cards and undergo medical checkups at the seaport.
It is necessary for tourists coming from outside Sabang to carry along health certificates issued by the hospital, community health center, or other health clinic.
The Sabang coastal town, located on Indonesia's westernmost island of Weh, is a tourism icon of Aceh Province owing to its scenic marine panorama.
Sabang has become a preferred location for marine tourism lovers for engaging in various activities, including diving, snorkeling, fishing, sun-bathing, and visiting interesting spots.
Weh Island is exotic and romantic, as it is surrounded by several small islets. Moreover, its strategic location, Weh Island, located between the Indian Ocean and Malacca Strait, is easily accessible by both domestic and foreign tourists.
In addition to Aceh, North Sulawesi is ready to embrace the new normal in the tourism sector.
Deputy Governor of North Sulawesi Steven Kandouw highlighted the need for tourism businesses to continue regardless of the limitations owing to the pandemic.
"Demonstrate to potential domestic and international tourists that North Sulawesi is safe because it applies the COVID-19 protocols. Hence, hotels must implement those protocols," he remarked.
Tourism is a lifeline to millions, particularly in the developing world. Hence, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) believes that opening the world up to tourism again will save jobs, protect livelihoods, and enable the sector to resume its vital role in driving sustainable development.