Just FORTY THREE foreign tourists visit Bali in nine months compared to 6.3 million in 2019 before the Covid pandemic shut down travel and pushed the holiday island to the brink
- Bali had a record 6.3 million foreign tourists in 2019 after decades of growth
- New figures reveal that in the first nine months of 2021 just 43 foreigners arrived
- Just as borders begin to reopen after two years, Covid variants threaten travel
Only a few dozen foreign tourists visited Bali in nine months this year, when the beloved holiday island is usually teeming with millions.
Once its streets were flooded visitors packed shoulder to shoulder, but now bars and shops sit empty after tourism dried up during Covid travel bans.
In the first nine months of 2021 just 43 foreign tourists in total visited the Indonesian island compared to 6.3 million in the same period of 2019.
Once straining under the weight of ‘overtourism’ the island’s villages are now ghost towns and local businesses are struggling to stay afloat with the prospect international travel might not rebound for years.
Bali grew increasingly popular for tourists the world over in between 2000 and 2019 with a record 6.3million foreigners visiting in 2019 (pictured: Lempuyang Temple in Bali)
Bali was closed to international travellers in April 2020, abruptly cutting off the tourism industry on which locals had come to rely on (pictured: a Bali beach in October 2021)
In the past decade Bali had became one of the top tourists destinations in the world, not just for Australians but Europeans, North and South Americans, and other Asian countries flocked to the Island.
New scooter hire businesses, pubs, and eateries sprouted up along the tourist strips as more and more locals began relying on foreign business.
More than 75,000 hotel rooms were constructed along its beaches to cope with demand as visitor numbers grew to record levels in 2019.
The same year, TripAdvisor rated the island the top destination in Asia and fourth in the world.
Figures released from Bali’s tourism board show between 2000 and 2019 foreign visitors quadrupled to be 6.3 million in just nine months – outnumbering the local population of four million.
But locals started to get fed up with ‘arrogant’ and ‘rowdy’ tourists packing the streets and beaches littered with rubbish.
Stores in Kuta (pictured) once bustling with foreign tourists snapping up cheap clothes and souvenirs now sit empty
A building boom created a raft of new hotels and bars on the island in the last decade but many are now sitting empty (pictured: a beachside bar in Canggu)
Then the arrival of coronavirus in early 2020 abruptly cut off international travel.
The island eventually opened up to tourists again in mid-October but required travellers to quarantine at their own expense for five days, which was later dropped to three.
In the first nine months of 2021 before the border was opened just 43 foreign visitors arrived on the island – all in September and all were not on tourists visas, Bali airport told The Wall Street Journal.
Bali allowed certain exemptions to the travel rules – such as for diplomats or medical workers.
The airport said no international tourist flights arrived since the border opening but he couldn’t be certain why.
New Covid variants and tourist’s reluctance to travel with uncertain rules have resulted in the island’s tourism industry struggling to bounce back (pictured: Bali in 2019)
Officials are looking at other industries in which Bali economy could be directed such as fishing an manufacturing to be less reliant on tourists
Now just as Bali and other countries such as Australia and the US begin easing border rules, the emergence of new variants threatens to ground flights once again.
A new strain dubbed ‘Omicron’, discovered in South Africa and labelled ‘of concern’ by the World Health Organization, is already affecting travel.
Dozens of countries tightened travel restrictions again – particularly towards eight African countries – airline stocks dropped, and tourists are hesitant to book flights over concerns rules could suddenly change.
Experts forecast new variants could be an ongoing issue for years.
A holiday maker walks on Kuta beach in Bali in 2019 (pictured)
The Indonesian Government said tourism accounted for more than 50 per cent of the Balinese economy and 700,000 workers were stood down from their jobs since the Covid pandemic began.
Bali is one of many holiday hotspots along with Jamaica and Fiji which are trying to diversify their economy into other areas such as fishing and manufacturing.
Thailand, another major tourist hub, is experiencing it’s worst economic downturn in decades and attempting to draw in wealthier tourists in smaller numbers.
Bali Governor Wayan Koster released a manifesto in October in which he called for the island to become less dependent on tourism moving forward.
‘The development of tourism was pushed in an incorrect direction and didn’t benefit other sectors,’ he said.
He said the last two years created a ‘momentum’ for him to push forward with diversifying Bali’s economy ‘to be more balanced’.
For the more than a million Australians who visit the island each year, there is a real possibility the Bali they once knew may not return, but maybe for the better.
A Kuta beach bar (pictured) closed down and packed away in May 2021
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