Bali without tourists: once-bustling hotspots now eerie and overgrown – a photo essay

The sun is slowly disappearing on Jimbaran beach. The restaurants lining the beach have started to turn on their lights, but not all of them are open. Some lie abandoned, festooned with wild plants and weeds. The beach itself is empty.

The scene is repeated in Bali’s other once popular tourist spots such as Kuta, Ubud, and Sanur. On either side of the road, shops, cafes, and restaurants are closed. Unclothed mannequins stand unused in the windows. Shelves are bare. Clubs and beach clubs are closed and unattended, lending the neighbourhood a slightly eerie air.

International flights to and from Bali have been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic since April 2020, and the island has been hit hard. Tourism usually accounts for 60% of Bali’s economy, and the border closure has cost thousands of hospitality workers their jobs.

Dr Nyoman Sukma Arida, a lecturer at the tourism faculty of Udayana University, believes Bali needs alternative sources of income. “Relying solely on a fragile tourism economy is of course very risky,” he said. “Bali can go back to agriculture while looking for other alternatives to support its economy, such as the digital economy, so as not to depend on tourism alone.”

Efforts to reopen Bali, such as the government’s vaccination program, are ongoing. According to data from the Indonesian Ministry of Health, the vaccination rate in Bali has reached 97% for the first dose and 78% for the second, one of the highest in Indonesia.

The latest plan from the Indonesian government, announced by minister Luhut Panjaitan this week, is to open Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport to international flights from China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia on 14 October. Visitors must undergo eight days of quarantine at a hotel, with the expenses to be borne by the travellers themselves.

Wayan Wilyana is a private tour guide from the village of Batubulan, where many people work in the tourism sector. He says that since the pandemic his income has dropped drastically. Now he can only depend on local tourists, who rarely look for guides. Thankfully, he was finally able to find a solution by selling mats and blinds to support his family. “Due to this pandemic I think that in the future working in tourism should only be my side job considering how fragile this industry is,” he says.

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