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Tourism in Indonesia During The Pandemic

Nora Setiawan

May 26, 2020

As we know, COVID 19 affected tourism globally, with no exception for Indonesia tourism. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimated that international tourists arrival could decline by between 20% – 30% globally in 2020. This could lead to financial losses in international tourism.

On the other hand, Indonesia already suspended Visa on Arrival for foreigners to curb the spread of the deadly Coronavirus in the archipelago. The move definitely gives an effect to the tourism industry, bringing the same economic pain with other countries, such as Rome, Barcelona and Singapore as known as a magnet for tourists.

The most popular resort island of Bali, where more than three-quarters of the economy is linked to tourism, the outbreak could prove a catastrophe to the country. In fact, over 15 years, young people have chosen the tourism industry for their jobs, imagining the more people could have loose jobs nowadays.

According to Al Jazeera, following a February 5th ban on tourists who had been in China in the past 2 weeks, the foreign tourists dropped 20%. Months before the outbreak, 400.000 tourists from Australia, Russia, South Korea, India, Japan, and more than 100 other countries headed to Bali. Indonesia’s Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister, Luhut Pandjaitan acknowledged, the country’s tourism sector has lost an estimated US$500 million due to coronavirus.

The government plans to provide incentives for the tourism sectors, thus they would get back to work again.


How Indonesia Tourism Can Survive?

One of the tour guides in Bali, Mangku Nyoman Kandia, has been a tour guide since 1984, and couldn’t count how many tourists he has taken. He acknowledged, he never prepares for this kind of situation. Many Bali residents make a living from the tourism industry, but with the regulation of staying at home, the residents are struggling. The coronavirus somehow has collapsed the Balinese economy.

On April 1, only four international flights arrived and departed from the airport, around 95% drop compared to last year. Now the bustling vendors already had shut down their stores, also with many hotels and restaurants closed, thousands have left with uncertainty to grab a new reality. Unfortunately, for the Bali residents that got affected are now doing odd jobs or surviving on their savings. Mr.Kandia himself is living off his savings, and sometimes doing odd jobs, such as construction work, sweeping the streets, driving, just to survive.

The donations arrived at the beginning of this month too, they have been given boxes of rice to 500 – 1.000 drivers. It is unfortunate to know that the residents are now living in uncertainty, and hope that the situation would be getting better.

As quoted from the local news, Detik.com, Bali is not the only area that got impacted. The tourist spot, Mount Merapi that is located on the border between Central Java and Special Region of Yogyakarta, got affected too. The jeep drivers that usually take an off-road on a Merapi lava tour, are now shifting their jobs as the farmers.

The vendors in Parangtritis beach are forced to sell their own stuff only to live life. The food stall on the beach has closed since 25 March as a result of the staying at home regulations. One of the motorcycle rental owners has eventually sold all his motorcycles to pay off the loan.

With the current situation, many travel agents have been forced to lay off to their non-permanent workers, such as drivers and office boys. The agents also experienced difficulties to pay operational costs and wages these past two months. If there is no help from the government, many travel agents will not be able to operate again.


The Incentive Plans for Indonesia Tourism From The Government

Indonesia attracted 18 million foreign tourists last year, missing the 20 million target set by Jokowi in the beginning of this year. However, the plan doesn’t seem to be working well, as Indonesia has already lost many foreign tourists due to coronavirus.

Therefore, the government actually has worked hard in helping the tourism sector. By providing 98.5 billion rupiahs (US$6 million) incentives for both airlines and travel agencies, 103 billion rupiah (US$7.1 million) for tourism marketing and promotions, and an estimated 72 billion (US$ 5 million) for social media influencers to promote tourist spots.

An additional incentive of 443-billion-rupiah (US$27 million) worth of discounts available for domestic tourists on visiting one of 10 tourist destinations promoted by the government.

These prioritized tourist destinations are Lake Toba, Bali, Yogyakarta, Malang, Manado, Mandalika, Labuan Bajo, Bangka Belitung, Batam, and Bintan. Moreover, the government will waiver taxes for restaurants and hoteliers located in 10 tourist destinations for the next 6 months.

The state energy company, Pertamina would also cut jet fuel prices in nine destinations for three months starting from March, and it would cost Pertamina Rp267 billion to provide the discount.

Quoted from CNN Indonesia, Jokowi offered social assistance for those who work in the tourism sector. He projected that Indonesia tourism is expected to last until the end of this year, and it could take up to the next year to recover. Jokowi hopes the incentive plans could reduce the layoffs happening for both hoteliers and aviation industries.


The Government Puts Believe on Indonesia Tourism Recovery

As quoted from Kompas.Com, The Minister of Tourism Indonesia, Wishnutama optimises that Indonesia’s tourism will recover soon. As well as UNWTO predicted, it will be getting better by 2022. As the government has already planned the incentive, they also provide financial incentives in the form of loan repayment relaxation to business players in the tourism sector. Giving cash assistance to employees is helping too.

On the other hand, Wishnutama is also preparing other ways to get it recovered. However, he has not shared the details yet.

After all, during the recovery period, unlike other business sectors, the tourism sector will somehow take a longer time to return to its normalcy. The tourists need to ensure that the situation is back to normal and safe to explore around. They will make sure everything is in shape before they travel again. It will indeed take time, but it will get recovered soon before we know it.

The government also believes that the pandemic will end this year, and the tourism industries will be blooming by the next year. People would go on holidays after staying home for a long time, and the whole tourism industries will be back on track once again. The government might also want to learn from Vietnam on how they can curb the pandemic and bring back the tourism industry.

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