These days, Fransiska Handoko is often seen wearing a radiant smile.
It isn't hard to see why. The chair of Bali Hotels Association (BHA)
recently welcomed faces she hadn’t seen for two years to BHA’s monthly
“Everyone was celebrating the reopening and that we’re finally moving
forward. There’s a real feeling of optimism among our members,” she
beamed, when she met Travel Weekly Asia for a chat.
Since the return of the visa on arrival (VoA) in early March — which
many saw as the true restart of the Indonesian island’s inbound travel
sector — Bali’s daily international arrival numbers have climbed
In the first half of April 2022, over 11,000 inbound arrivals passed
through the gates of Ngurah Rai International Airport. While this may
seem minor compared to the 476,000 received in April 2019, it was a
significant jump from the nine foreigners who flew to the island in
April last year.
With the peak Islamic holiday season Eid-ul-Fitr and Australian
school holidays just around the corner, these figures are certain to
rise over the next few months — as long as airlines can keep up.
“Everything depends on the flight schedules,” Handoko noted.
Currently 10 airlines are flying direct to Bali, with Emirates scheduled
to bring it to 11 at the beginning of May. Pre-pandemic, 44 airlines
had direct routes to the island.
Some of Bali’s biggest source markets — Australia, Singapore, the US
and the UK — have been the first to return, with the notable exception
of China, whose zero Covid policy is still restricting international
travel for its citizens.
After the recent reinstatement of visa-free visits for ASEAN
nationals, the region’s big group market is beginning to fire up again.
BHA members have received many RFPs and group travel quotations from the
Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore for May, June and July. “The next
period will be crucial for Bali,” she said.
At Risata Resort & Spa, where Handoko heads as general manager,
bookings are picking up for May and June, especially among its
Australian returners. Some of these regular guests raised funds to
provide the South Kuta resort’s staff with basic necessities during the
pandemic. “That level of support was so moving,” Handoko said.
Bali Hotels Association members have received many RFPs and group travel quotations from the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, said BHA chair Fransiska Handoko.
Also contributing to the hospitality industry’s optimism is the
revival of the island’s MICE sector, with the jewel in the crown, the
G20 Summit, to be held within the Indonesia Tourism Development
Corporation area (ITDC) in Nusa Dua in November.
The nation’s coordinating minister for the economy, Airlangga
Hartato, has stated that the event will comprise 150 side meetings in
addition to the main conference session, involve 33,000 workers, and add
US$140 million to GDP. “We are hoping that attendees will make it
beyond the ITDC area, so that small and medium enterprises and other
destinations will also benefit,” said Handoko.
Along with the G20 and dozens of conferences and expos, major
festivals are back on the cards for the island, including Bali Spirit
Festival in May, Ubud Food Festival in June, and Ubud Writers &
Readers Festival in October.
More clarity and support
As more international tourists return to Bali and hotels and agents
revive their business, they can access travel information pertaining to
Bali on WelcomeBacktoBali.com, one of BHA’s major initiatives during the pandemic.
Throughout a long period of frequent and confusing regulation
changes, the well-designed website was a beacon of clarity — and traffic
numbers reflect this. The site received over 200,000 interactions in
March, with Australians the most regular users. “The website was a huge
success,” Handoko said with a smile. BHA is currently in talks with the
Australian government to potentially integrate information from its
travel advice service, Smartraveler.
Despite Bali’s strong inbound tourism restart, most BHA members
aren’t quite ready to offer new tours or experiences yet. “Everyone is
still focusing on reopening their properties, or reopening all their
facilities, and providing refresher training for staff, while travel
agents are focusing on their existing products.”
As more countries reopen their borders, Handoko is confident that
Bali will remain one of the world’s top holiday destinations. “Our
strength is our diversity. From the beaches to the mountains to the
culture — everything is available on one island. There is something for
every type of traveller.”