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The Real Impact of Bali Gov’t PCR Test & Antigen Requirement for Travelers Visiting Bali

There is such a thing as holiday stress in this life, and if you’re one with plans to travel to Bali for Christmas and the New Year, the recent changes to travel requirements may have caused you a little more than a headache.

After announcing a pretty last-minute PCR swab test requirement for those coming to Bali via air earlier this week, which was set to be enforced today, officials yesterday announced a modified set of rules following widespread public backlash.

Travelers entering Bali by road or by sea are required to present a negative antigen rapid test result that must be obtained three days before their arrival to the province, in yet another last-minute update to travel requirements for the year-end holiday.

Last week (22/12/20), under instruction from the central government, the Bali provincial government announced a PCR swab test requirement for air travelers coming to Bali and an antigen rapid test requirement for those traveling via other modes of transportation. On Friday, Bali officials say the test results ⁠— for both PCR swab tests and antigen rapid tests ⁠— are valid for seven days instead of the two days as announced earlier.

The mandatory PCR test and Rapid antigen test for tourists visiting Bali have a very negative impact on tourism actors. As a result, many people chose to cancel their travel plans. So that hotels in Bali have the potential to experience losses of up to IDR 76 billion. The government through the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan is tightening the rules for traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially related to health protocols.

The tightening is a form of government anticipation to avoid the use of COVID-19 cases during the Christmas and New Year 2021 holidays. Starting today, the government requires road trips to Bali to carry out a rapid antigen test on D-2 or 2×24 hours before departure. Meanwhile, airplane passengers to Bali are required to take a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) swab test on D-2 before departure.

This rule was also welcomed by the Bali Regional Government with the Circular of the Governor of Bali Number 2021 of 2020 from 19 December from 18 December 2020. Attachment of PCR test results is attached D-7 before departure. The Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Panjaitan said that more than 200 thousand people came to Bali within 10 days.

So that the tightening steps inevitably have to be done. “Yesterday we wanted to go to Bali, there were more than 200 thousand people for 10 days. Now we will give it a little. Because if not, how about it. Bali will rise again. Now Bali is relatively very good,” he told reporters, Friday, December 18.

According to Luhut, people still ignore the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, for the New Year holidays the government must take concrete steps for prevention. This is also reflected in the long holiday last October which had made active cases of COVID-19 in Indonesia rise. Moreover, said Luhut, the movement of domestic tourists has almost touched 85 percent. “We control everything now, we reduce it first so that it won’t be too fast, it will actually be dangerous. If it is opened, there will be no discipline, the cases will definitely rise again so it must be understood,” he said.

Losses due to Ticket Refunds Reach IDR317 Billion

The Association of Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants (PHRI) revealed that the number of ticket refund transactions for tourists visiting Bali reached Rp. 317 billion. That number comes from 133 thousand plane tickets. PHRI Secretary General Maulana Yusran said the tourism business is a business that really needs the movement of people.

The process can be digital, but there must still be movement of people to tourist destinations. Furthermore, Yusran said, tourists generally will make travel plans by booking tickets for both transportation and hotels. So, the trip was planned.

“People almost never suddenly buy tickets. Especially if you use air transportation. The government policy suddenly has an impact. The potential loss for hotels alone reaches Rp76 billion,” said Yusran to VOI, Friday, December 18. In fact, said Yusran, hotel occupancy in Bali has begun to increase by 50 percent in a variety of ways. The 2021 Christmas and New Year holidays are the moments that tourism businesses are waiting for, because at that time the productivity of this sector appears.

“The momentum is when we talk about domestic tourists, there are only two moments, one Eid, Christmas and New Year. Automatically the conditions that should have him (tourism business actors) who get productivity so cannot,” he said. PHRI regrets the change in policy from the government.

Apart from having an impact on tourism business actors, this policy also affects the economy of Bali. PHRI strongly supports the government’s efforts to break the chain of the spread of covid-19. However, Yusran regretted the change in government policies ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays.

“Do not mean that we do not agree in this pandemic situation to reduce suspicion of people or avoid crowds. That’s not it. But what we are troubling about is the policy that changed last minute. This is the dangerous one. Finally, there was a cancelation,” he said. Yusran said, the impact of the cancellation of tourist trips that felt was business actors and the community. Especially workers in the tourism sector.

“The government should have a burden on the policy. Unless they issue a policy for those who will (leave), but those who have made reservations are given a free PCR that’s different. Now it’s different,” he said. Yusran said, PCR test H-2 as a condition for traveling to Bali is very burdensome for tourists. Because, generally tourists have planned a trip and budget before deciding on a vacation. “The policy issued by the government will add to the costs that have been planned by tourists. Entering Bali must use the PCR H-2, which is a fast service, for regular ones, it may still be Rp. 800 thousand, but if it is fast it is expensive,” he said.

Increased Trip Cancellation

Andhini Puteri, Vice President Marketing Transport & Financial Services at Traveloka, said that the company saw an increase in trip cancellations and refund requests for Bali destinations. “However, the amount can still be handled properly by the Traveloka Customer Care team,” said Andhini, Thursday, December 17. As one of the players in the travel and tourism industry, Andhini fully supports the policy of including a negative PCR-Antigen test result as one of the requirements for completing travel documents.

Regarding refunds that have occurred since the beginning of the pandemic or March 2020, Andhini said, the trip cancellation claims submitted by Traveloka users have almost been completed. “For those who have not been resolved, the status is still waiting for confirmation and further processing from partners. We will focus on completing unprocessed refund requests and continue to coordinate intensively with related partners,” he said.

Health problems are the most important requirement and are a strategic step for the tourism sector to bounce back. pic.twitter.com/jec2s9oygH – Tourism & Creative Economy (@Kemenparekraf) December 12, 2020 The rest of the refund, said Andhini, really depends on the policies of each airline. “We need to emphasize again that, as an online booking platform, Traveloka will fully comply with the refund policy determined by airline partners, including the forms of refunds such as Travel Vouchers, length of time for refunds, and others,” he said. In handling this refund, his party even transferred half of Traveloka employees as additional assistance to the customer care team so as to resolve the refund issue by conducting intensive follow-up to partners.

“It is undeniable that since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in Indonesia, we have received requests for assistance (refund) with a very high volume of up to 10 times the normal situation. We have also made various efforts to overcome this situation,” he said. Meanwhile, (former) Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Wishnutama Kusubandio said he was optimistic that after the pandemic, tourism could become the backbone of the country’s economy. The reason is, the basic concept of tourism is the movement of people so that he believes that people will again be interested in traveling. “If there is no movement, it cannot (succeed). Indeed, the medium can be digital, but again if there is no movement it cannot, because humans (in tourism) cannot be replaced by digital,” Wishnutama said.