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Bali has become well-known by Australians as a holiday hotspot, with up to 1.2 million Australians visiting the island per year. With recent statistics showing that Bali has the highest COVID-19 fatality rate in Southeast Asia and one of the lowest testing rates (0.02 per cent of the population in late March) in the world, Bali has closed up shop. The ramifications of this, however, could be catastrophic in a tourism-dependent economy.

The Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister, Retno Marsudi, announced in March that the only people permitted into the country were Indonesian citizens, diplomats, and family members. Essentially, foreign visitors have been banned from entering the island and locals have been put into lockdown. As a result, the normally-bustling beaches, hotels, streets, clubs, and religious temples have become ghost towns.

Volunteers from Prevention Task Force for COVID-19 Indonesia disinfecting temple. Source: Zikri Maulana, SOPA Images

More than three-quarters of the Indonesian economy is linked to foreign visitors and around eighty percent of Bali’s market value is based on tourism. The closure of the island is showing the potential to be catastrophic, with tourism arrival statistics displaying a thirty percent decrease in February, the lowest it has been in four years.

Statistics show a 30% decline in tourism arrival. Source: tradingeconomics.com

“The Coronavirus has collapsed the Bali economy,” Mangku Kandia, a Bali Tour Guide who has worked in Bali since 1984, said. “It’s been a steep drop since mid-March, when social distancing measures were put in place. No tourist, no money.”

The lack of tourists is showing a drastic decline in currency, despite Indonesia being the world’s fourth-most popular nation.

“There’s been this huge transition where almost everyone has placed their eggs in the tourism basket,” Ross Taylor, President of the Indonesia Institute at Melbourne’s Monash University, stated. “The result of taking that away would be catastrophic. In Bali, most people earn only a couple of hundreds of dollars a month – they live from day-to-day or month-to-month. If they lose their jobs, they will have nothing to fall back on.”

A normally traffic-jammed street in Bali is nearly deserted. Source: Made Nagi, EPA

A study conducted by the London-Based Centred for Mathematic Modelling of Infectious Diseases estimated that only two percent of COVID-19 cases in Indonesia would have been reported. This makes the decision to close Bali borders a necessary move. It is questionable, however, if the popular tourist destination will ever be able to make it back from the catastrophic circumstances.

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