An Indonesian minister has stated that the popular tourist hotspot of Bali will move away from being a backpacker island as the country works towards reopening for travelers once more. Bali has long been viewed as one of, if not the definitive backpacker hotspots for decades, and the news is bound to come as a blow to grounded backpackers dreaming of traveling once more in the near future.
Bali is not the only destination that will be looking to take the enforced absence of travelers as an opportunity to cast itself in a new light, though it remains to be seen how effective the minister’s campaign will be at rebranding the wildly popular island. Here’s a look at what the minister said about Bali and how the island’s plans to reopen are going.
Bali – No Longer For Backpackers?
For many travelers, Bali is synonymous with backpackers. A serial winner of blog posts counting down the top backpacking hotspots in the world, Bali is capable of attracting upwards of 6m foreign tourists a year in non-pandemic times, many of which are backpackers ticking the island off of their Southeast Asia bucket lists and take in the wonder of its temples, beaches and bars. However, backpackers are far from the only types of travelers flocking to the island’s shores.
Whilst hostels in high season may be fully booked and street food businesses booming, Bali also has a lot to offer for the luxury-orientated traveler. High-end beach clubs, fancy resorts and fine dining establishments have a sizeable presence on the island to attract the more discerning traveler – and it is these markets that politicians in the country want to target once the borders reopen, as the island tries to remarket itself and shake off its backpacker image.
During a visit to the island on Friday, Indonesia’s Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan spoke of the possibility of Bali being more selective with tourists once it finally reopens once more. Discussing the matter, the minister said:
“We will filter tourists that come visit. We don’t want backpackers to come so that Bali remains clean, where the people who come are of quality.”
It is easy to see why the idea of attracting big-spending travelers over thrifty backpackers may be appealing given how long the tourism-dependent island has been starved of travelers. However, with the island yet to reopen in any significant form – and with only 1m travelers able to make the journey in 2020 – it is an unusual move to alienate potential visitors, particularly when similar destinations nearby have already begun easing their restrictions and letting tourists enter.
At present, Bali is a Level 4 province in Indonesia, which means it carries the strictest restrictions. During his visit, Minister Luhut spoke of the possibility of allowing foreign travelers to visit once the province reaches Level 2. The island had previously been scheduled to reopen, however, a spike in cases led to those plans being scrapped.
At present, travel is only permitted to Bali for domestic travelers, with international leisure travel banned. However, the Indonesian government have spoken about the possibility of adopting a scheme similar to the Phuket Sandbox that would allow international travelers to be able to visit Bali. Whether or not backpackers will be welcomed remains to be seen.
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