COVID 19 OUTBREAK: WHAT DO THE BALINESE DO TO SURVIVE?

The decreasing of international tourist arrivals to 95 percent greatly affects millions of people in Bali who have been dependent to tourism industry.

Mangku Nyoman Kandia, a Balinese guy has worked as a tour guide since 1984. He said he could no longer count the number of tourists from all over the world he had been guided, but the situation he had now, is something that he never experienced before.

“No tourists, no money,” he said. In Legian area, close to the Bali Bomb Warning Monument, an area which is usually crowded with tourists, now is like a dead city. Only a few motorcyclists pass by, a delivery guy.

There are not many places in the world like Bali where almost all of the inhabitants depend their income on the tourism industry. According to data from the World Tourism Agency in 2018, around 12 million Indonesians depend on the tourism sector, with the majority of them living in Bali. The Indonesian government has announced an economic stimulus package worth more than 400 trillion rupiah to help the economy.

Same goes with the hotelier sector. Most of hotels in Bali were closed from the beginning of April 2020. Although there are some that are still operating because there are still guests that are served, mainly the airline crews. hotels that are still open use a variety of ways to survive. Generally, there are three strategies that are carried out by hotels in Bali in order to maintain operations.

First try to get an injection of funds or capital funds, then do creative marketing, and finally sell vouchers that can be taken at any time for the next one year. For creative marketing, the hotels use a way to sell rooms with additional profits, thereby attracting potential customers. Meanwhile, related to the condition of hotel employees who are still assigned, according to Made, adjusted to the operational needs of the hotel.

Other employees are welcome to take leave, extra off, day in lieu, and some are given unpaid leave (unpaid leave) to help finance the company. He continued, there were several attempts made by employers and hotel management to help their workforce, namely by imposing 50 percent entry and full payment. In addition, there are also those who apply unpaid leave for two weeks, so the salary is only 50 percent.

There are even some who apply unpaid leave for two months. But they submitted the request alone or on their own. However, IHGMA Bali still tried to ask for help from the government to ease the burden on the hotel. We still ask for government assistance, such as relief or scheduling of hotel and restaurant tax payments, health insurance, water and electricity cost, and income tax. However, up until now, the proposal has not received a response from the government. A positive response has only been shown by the OJK (the financial service authorities) of with the issuance of concerning instalment relief and debt restructuring.

Exactly in a few months before, Bali has been reported as one of the destinations that have a large enough Chinese tourist market. He said, the number of Chinese markets for Bali was around 19 percent of the total tourist market. However, the existence of travel restrictions from various countries in the world, especially China, greatly affected the hotel industry in Bali. Especially for hotels that are targeting the Chinese market as their main market.

The average room occupancy rate of hotels in February 2020 was between 50-55 percent. In fact, the February period of previous years the room occupancy rate reached above 65-75 percent. And now that number has decreased drastically. Every year in February itself is considered as the low season period. Now the Indonesian government closes the entrance for foreign tourists to Indonesia and the regulation of physical distancing to prevent the virus really make a huge impact. In short, there is almost no income for the hotel at this time.

 

A series of initiatives to provide training for those affected by COVID-19 have been carried out in three regions, including Bali. But there are still many who cannot follow the program, making them have to rely on the local government or relatives to survive.

Sam Huang, an economics professor from Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, said the deteriorating economy in the tourism sector did not just happen in Bali. The tourism business is currently experiencing difficulties, because of the large number of border closures by various countries with movement restrictions being made to stop the spread of the corona virus. The financial impact will be enormous.

He said that income from tourists coming to Australia could drop 60-70 percent compared to the previous year. Some hotels even let down the price to a massive low rate, just to settle the operational cost. Some of them are also use the method of 50% salary, or even unpaid leave for the staff.

For countries and regions that are totally dependent on the tourism sector, this reduced income will be even greater. He added that the tourism industry could only review after two to four months, after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared over by the World Health Organization (WHO). This pandemic provides a lesson for us to reconsider the right proportion of this industry in the economy of a country or region.

Regular update announcement on covid-19 by the indonesian government authority

Government Strategies

Bali’s local government don’t adopt lockdown system. However, some areas or villages prefer to do a regional quarantine to stop the spreading of the virus. Badung area, which consist of popular areas like Canggu, Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak apply the standard fixed health protocol; physical distancing for about 2 metres minimum, wash-hands or sanitizer, and face mask utilization.

The activities are still going on like normal, although now people prefer to stay at home if there is nothing urgent, which makes the road is a bit quiet. There is also a limitation to operational hour to all shops, 8 (AM) to 8 (PM).

Denpasar city adopt a different method which is called PKM (“Pembatasan Kegiatan Masyarakat” or restrictions to community activities in English). When there are residents outside Denpasar would like to enter Denpasar city, they will be checked before in the post by the guards. In each post, there will be a rapid sampling (body temperature checking), mandatory masks, and no new guest allowed. The people must have a letter of work and a clear reason to commute, otherwise, they must return home again.

In addition, there are rules about restrictions at public places, like traditional market which only allowed several people to come in. For food service, take away service is preferred, no dine in. Hoping that by implementing this method, it will be able to suppress the pace and even break the Covid-19 chain in Denpasar.

Good news is, with those methods that Bali adopt, up until now, Bali has been the top in controlling the spread of the virus throughout the country, and managed to reduce the rate of positive cases of the Corona virus.

 

The Positive Movement from The People

There is nothing worse than the impact of this corona virus. Balinese felt everything during the Bali bombing, Mount Agung eruption, SARS virus, Avian Influenza, the time period of all of those epidemics was not too long, even they can predict when it will be over, and ready to recover. But this covid19, we all don’t know how long it will be, and when it will end.

In addition to feed-the-stomach matters, the religious and traditions aspects also affected, as most of the Hindu religious ceremonies in Bali involve a large crowd, now everything must be pulled aside, waiting the pandemic season to be over. The big ceremony like Galungan, Kuningan, and even Nyepi which was usually filled with lots of agendas between families, friends and relatives had to stopped, because they had to remain at home so that the virus could not spread here and there.

This virus really devastates human traditions that we have maintained so long as a manifestation of mutual cooperation. But in order to survive, the people must continue to fight. They switched their way of thinking, in this case, how to get money to buy a food in this economic crisis.

Take a look Salto Boy (not a realname-nickname), a man with 3 children who has a tour & travel company in Nusa Dua. Although it’s a typical family-small-business, but for years this business has been able to support the needs of small families plus nephews and cousins. And also, can help his family in Java, his native region. With several cars that he owned for rented, plus a tour guide, so far, the nett income can be above 10 million rupiah a month.

Before, there were always some guests who want to rent a car or even a tour. Not to mention the airplane tickets and travel tickets for interprovincial buses that he also sells. It’s been 2 months already, that they never have guests. So, he goes fishing to Sanur, from dawn until night, and if he is lucky he can get tilapia fish for 10 kilograms. His wife is using social media to sell the grilled fish. Sometimes he goes fishing in the morning, while sunbathing (because some said the virus will be gone if there is a sunlight).

On the other side, this pandemic brings out some people who are willing to offer help. The Bali Alliance Against Covid-19 for example. Together with several expatriates living in Bali, they distributed food packages to residents who were facing economic difficulties due to lost their job.

One of the expatriates from Belgium, Erick, who participated in the provision of the nine-basic necessities, even cried seeing the economic condition of the resident’s due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He who has lived 10 years in Bali to shed tears when asked for a response related to the current condition of the people in Bali.

“I see how the impact of Covid-19 is on Balinese citizens. Many have experienced a crisis and I feel sorry, I’m sad to see it, okay stop first … “said Erick who could not hold back his sadness. His eyes look red and his eyes look glazed. Because seeing this condition, he was moved to help people who are experiencing difficulties.

“I see this condition and I have been living in Bali for a long time, it makes me feel moved to help people in need,” he said. He also saw the economic recovery in Bali is very slow, and if this continues to happen there will be a crisis.

Like Erick, another expatriate, Florence from France also expressed concern about the economic conditions of the Balinese people today. Because of that, she also participated to support the Balinese economy as much as possible.

“I have lived in Bali for seven years and I support Balinese who need it, moreover I see many who are experiencing economic difficulties,” she said.

Meanwhile, the aid from the local government is also distributed continuously. They are not only distributed groceries in the form of rice, cooking oil and anchovy, but also water, vitamins, hand-sanitizers and masks. Before going to the field, they had a village task force that took to the field to collect data to make it right on target.

Data collection was conducted Monday through Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday the distribution of aid was carried out. The assistance delivered is aids from donors in the form of goods or money. Those who qualify for this assistance are residents who are laid off, layoff victims, orphanages, day laborers, underprivileged residents, to the disabled.

Another positive movement also been done by David Biner, a foreigner and a surfer who lives in Bali, called The People Must Makan. He created donation through gofundme and using facebook as a media to spread the movement. All donations are used to purchase food (bulk bags of rice, noodles, oil & eggs) to be donated to a local village that needs it. He hopes that every people takes the time to educate themselves on what is actually happening to our world, to not be naive sheep and fall victim to the media’s agenda. Learn the facts, think critically and objectively about what is happening and why it is happening. And most importantly be helpful to each other.

He already spent about 170 million rupiah (11,270 USD) on food purchases that have been distributed straight to over 2600 Indonesians in 4 weeks. Every single day they have created progress towards alleviating the massive economic burden of covid-19 in Bali. What started as a few hundred dollars in food purchases each time has now grown 5-10 times. And his efforts only continue to a bigger scale. The support now really focusing on helping the thousands of Indonesians that are non-Bali originals who did not and will not receive any government assistance.

Balinese practising their Hindu ritual

So, if there is any question about how Bali can survive? Anything will be done and the people are struggling to fight to survive because they don’t give up and not losing any hope. If we have to make peace with this Covid19 thing, then let it be.

And a little message for all of you guys; if Bali has a place in your heart and memories, please consider to give back. If Bali is on your bucket list to visit, now is the time to introduce a real connection for your future here. Let’s spread the positive movement, don’t forget to wash your hand, wear a face-mask, and stay at home!

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