Bali, Indonesia, July 3, 2020 / TRAVELINDEX / Bali’s hotels are ready and willing – but not necessarily able – to reopen their doors and start welcoming international travellers again, according to the Bali Hotels Association’s (BHA) Government Relations Director, Fransiska Handoko.
Waiting on the government’s go-ahead, travel bubbles and a lack of domestic tourists are the overriding concerns for a Bali travel industry trying to battle through the Covid pandemic according to key leading speakers at the recent ‘Bali Tourism – The Way Back’ virtual event.
Fielding questions from respected travel journalist Mimi Hudoyo, TTG Asia’s Editor Indonesia, Handoko was candid about the efforts of BHA members and their responses to the catastrophic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has caused more disruption to the island’s main industry than previous crisis.
However, Handoko pointed out, despite preparations by the island’s hospitality businesses, it is the responsibility of the Bali’s provincial government to make the final ruling. “Our members are more than ready to reopen, with hotels continuing training programmes and maintaining standard operating procedures. We are ready to welcome guests but the decision must come from the government.”
Speaking on Bali’s interest in creating travel bubbles with China, South Korea, Japan and Australia, Handoko said, “Bali and Indonesia are ready for travel bubbles. However, the rest of the world still sees Indonesia as a high-risk country, so these plans are still in the discussion stage. It may be more logical to form travel bubbles within ASEAN because of the shorter travel times. But we are still observing how the situation will evolve.”
One of the event highlights was an ‘on-the-ground’ hotel perspective from Emily Subrata, Director, Sudamala Resorts and Lucienne Anhar, Co-Owner and Managing Director, Tugu Hotels & Restaurants, who discussed the different methods hotel owners have used to counter the during the pandemic.
On the subject of hotel shutdowns Emily Subrata said, “the decision to close the hotels was the single hardest decision we have ever had to make. The necessity was due to health concerns and I continue to stand by the decision. We have taken the longer- term view of protecting as many jobs as possible despite the economic impact.”
Staying on the subject of the impact on hotel staff Lucienne Anhar commented “we are a family business and our employees are part of our core family, and we are trying to retain staff as best we can.” Adding “some of our hotels have remained open, attracting local business and we are slowly re-opening food and beverage outlets.”
Positive news related to reopening highlighted the importance of low-cost carriers and how the industry’s most-coveted market, China, may lead the charge back to the island. “Airlift is everything; you can’t stay there if you can’t get there. The low-cost airlines and the regional airlines can react more quickly than the large, legacy carriers. This is one of the reasons we think the China market can potentially return in the fourth quarter of this year, or certainly by the first quarter of 2021.
Data from recently concluded market research in first-tier cities in China on Bali tourism sentiment showed that 86% of respondents would like to travel to Bali, and 24% had been there before. As to when Chinese would travel overseas, 48% said they’d want to travel late this year or early in 2021.
Recovery sentiment was tempered somewhat by insight from travel industry data group STR’s Area Director – Asia Pacific, Jesper Palmqvist, who said: “I hope I’m wrong but I don’t think China will travel in 2020 given the fact that there’s no drive-market in Bali, like there is in Bangkok, for example, where the domestic market will spur the reboot. The best-case scenario is that demand could reach its previous high levels by 2022 but with all that new supply, along with other contributing factors, performance-wise, it will take much longer.”