HOTELIERS in Bali are eagerly awaiting their moment in the sun while closely following the progress of their ASEAN counterparts in Thailand, who are set to launch the Phuket Sandbox program on July 1.
While no official reopening date has been confirmed for Bali, there is plenty of speculation it could resume operations by the end of July, with Antara news agency reporting this weekend that “Bali could reopen as early as next month â.
On June 15, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno made this statement to local media: âWe are continuing to prepare for the resumption of tourism in Bali. While the Covid-19 situation is currently well under control, we continue to monitor things closely in response to the spikes in cases that have recently occurred in several areas.
“The president is currently evaluating in detail the progress of vaccinations, the implementation of health protocols and the general management of Covid-19”, added the minister, “a positive result of these evaluations will be a big step forward for the reopening from Bali. but, in the end, the final decision will depend on the travel corridor arrangements prepared by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. “
Minister Uno congratulated Bali on its extremely successful vaccination program, which has so far resulted in an almost 50% vaccine distribution on the island, making Bali one of the best performing provinces in Indonesia in regarding the preparation of tests and the adoption of preventive measures to combat the pandemic. Minister Uno also said six million additional doses of the vaccine will be administered by the end of July.
Bali Hotel Association (BHA) President Jean Heliere noted that the organization has been liaising closely with the Phuket Hotel Association to see what effective strategies can be implemented to move from the front. âWe have a lot to learn from them as they are at a more advanced stage of reopening, but over time we will also be able to share our experiences and learn from each other.
“Although the vaccination rate is generally low across Indonesia, the statistics are not representative of Bali as the program has been scaled up significantly here,” said Heliere, who also shared that the goal was to vaccinate three million people, of which 70%. of the local population. Last week, the increase was 47%.
âIn addition, the program has specifically targeted around 90,000 hospitality workers who have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, enabling the creation of green zones for tourism in Ubud, Nusa Dua and Sanur.
âAll of this was made possible by 25 hotels represented by BHA who stepped in to help the campaign by offering their premises as vaccination sites. To add to this, 75% of BHA affiliated hotels are already in compliance with the country’s health certification and we expect that by the end of July we will be 90% compliant. The hotels are practically ready! We are now eagerly awaiting the green light to open to international visitors. “
Heliere is also the general manager of the Indigo Bali Seminyak Beach hotel, which reopened on May 1 after a 10-month closure. âIt was an emotional time for us to welcome guests again, but that’s what we do and it’s great to be back, to do what we were trained to do. It was not easy after 10 months, but we invested our resources well during this period, especially in our staff.
Currently, the hotel mainly caters to domestic guests, mainly from Jakarta, Surabaya, and Java, and has a respectable occupancy rate during these times, ranging between 15% and 20%. Besides recreation, the hotel benefits from the domestic workforce who can use the island remotely as a work base, following encouragement from the Indonesian government to âwork from Baliâ.
âWe recognize the challenges given that Seminyak is primarily a Chinese and Australian destination, and these two markets don’t appear to be opening up anytime soon. However, before the pandemic we were extremely popular with locals and had a strong national clientele, so catering for these guests exclusively required minimal readjustment, âsaid Heliere, who arrived in Bali two and a half years ago. .
“We’re a long way from where we were in 2019, but the situation is slowly improving – it probably won’t be back to where it was until next year but, compared to the start of the year, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel – there is some life coming back to the area and businesses are starting to reopen. â
However, in the integrated resort of Nusa Dua, the situation is slightly different, where the hotels within the compound are more reliant on inbound traffic and cater more to the MICE business which has all but disappeared.
Masaya Hasabe, general manager of the Nikko Bali Benoa Beach hotel, arrived in Bali from Bangkok in March 2020, just before the pandemic effectively cut off travel.
Hasabe said the property never officially closed during the pandemic. âWe were extremely fortunate to have an owner who supported us financially throughout this difficult time. We managed to keep one wing open and close most of the restaurants except two.
To maximize revenue streams, the hotel expanded its services into food delivery and catering, and launched ‘Nikko Home Indulgence’, offering massages, hairstyles, private chef, romantic dinners, housekeeping and other hotel services to residents. It has also transformed its seaside sites into co-working space to accommodate digital nomads.
âWe have also done a lot of online marketing,â Hasabe said, adding that âour staff have learned some good skills that we can use in the futureâ.
He also reports having seen “a much stronger recovery in demand” since May with the anticipation of a reopening by the end of July. Before Covid, he said the domestic market was around 10-15% of its business and China and Australia accounted for 60%.
With these two overseas markets put to the test, he said there was a need to diversify and the hotel would target guests from other Southeast Asian countries as well as Japan and Taiwan for future companies.
Hasabe estimates it would take two years for a full recovery. âIt’s not just about reopening the island, but it also depends on flights and airlines. Airlines have also struggled to overcome this and whether they have the planes to put in capacity quickly enough is another thing. “
However, what has been positive is the spirit of solidarity that has emerged from the hoteliers, both Heliere and Hasabe agreed. âEach hotel has supported its own staff, its own community, and we have collaborated on island-wide programs such as blood donations and donations of goods to the local community. It was a huge show of solidarity, âsaid HeliÃ¨re.
For Hasabe, the biggest lesson from Covid is how particularly relevant Japanese âomotenashiâ culture is during this time. âEnsuring the safety and well-being of customers and staff is our industry’s top priority – the omotenashi culture offers both. “
For Heliere, âThe biggest lesson we’ve learned is that nothing is guaranteed. Much has changed and it has changed rapidly; you have to adapt quickly but with so many uncertainties affecting everyone to very different degrees, you also have to be empathetic; my top priority is to make sure that no employee is hungry.
Note: Jean Heliere will speak at WiT Travel Roadshow, episode 4, June 24, 6-8:30 p.m. SG (GMT + 8)
â¢ Featured Image Credit: Indigo Seminyak Beach Hotel