Bali’s Australian tourist blockade could be lifted this weekend

Singapore: Australians could be cleared to begin travelling to Bali again as soon as this weekend as Indonesian authorities will on Saturday discuss approvals for what was once the island’s biggest international tourist market.

It comes as Thailand confirmed it would exempt fully vaccinated Australian tourists from November 1 from quarantine, alongside citizens of several other nations now welcome for holidays.

There has been confusion about Australia not being included among the first 19 countries Indonesia has approved for the resumption of international travel to its top holiday destination.

Bali holidays will be a possibility from November 1, as long as visitors spend the first five days in resort quarantine.

Senior Indonesian minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan threw a potential spanner in the works when he indicated this week that reciprocal travel would need to be offered for countries to make the cut for Bali’s reopening.

However, Indonesia’s tourism and foreign ministries will on Saturday discuss Australia joining the list, said Kurleni Ukar, the deputy for strategic policies under Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno. If approved it would go to a cabinet meeting on Monday for final sign-off.

“Australia is at the moment not included in the list of 19 countries that are allowed to enter Indonesia but it has been proposed to be [included] into the next batch,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on Friday.

“This will be discussed in the meeting with the foreign ministry tomorrow afternoon.”

Australia’s new ambassador in Jakarta, Penny Williams, has written to Sandiaga’s ministry informing it that Australians will from November 1 be able to leave the country and fly wherever they like after being effectively blocked from international travel during the pandemic.

With Indonesia wanting to have its own citizens able to travel abroad in return, though, a concession may be needed from Jakarta for Australians to get the green light for Bali.

Asked whether Australia would have to return the favour before it was added to the Bali list Kurleni, the Indonesian tourism ministry official, said the “reciprocal principle becomes one of the requirements”.

Despite that position, however, New Zealand is among the countries in the initial intake and its border is shut to almost all international travellers. Others include China, India, Japan and a range of European and Persian Gulf states.

If Australians are authorised to return to Bali, direct flights could resume before Christmas, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce indicated on Friday.

According to the entry rules set by Indonesia, foreigners heading to the island can only arrive there on direct flights from approved countries. They must be fully vaccinated and serve five days in hotel resort quarantine when they get to Bali, which has fully vaccinated more than 80 per cent of its population, according to the Indonesian health ministry.

The tourism mecca is still waiting for foreigners to turn up, though, more than a week after the official reopening because of a lack of flights.

Bangkok is hoping it, too, can welcome international tourists now that Thailand has opened its borders to several countries.Credit:Getty Images

Thailand, meanwhile, is becoming the first south-east Asian nation to open up more broadly to international travel.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced on Facebook that he was extending from 10 to 46 the number of countries whose fully vaccinated visitors Thailand would welcome, starting on Monday week. They will be able to fly in without quarantining and will only be required to produce a negative test result before departure and after arrival.

“If we want to attract more foreign tourists to stimulate our tourism and tourism-related businesses, we needed to be proactive,” Prayut said.

“If we wait until everything is fully ready, we’ll be too late. Besides, tourists may choose to go elsewhere.”

Thailand has fully vaccinated only 36 per cent of its population but is desperate to rescue a tourism-reliant economy devastated by the global health crisis.

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