Tag: bali

Indonesia keeps Bali closed to foreign tourists

Indonesia will remain closed to foreign tourists at least until the end of the year, Indonesian officials said during recent online forums.

As the country still grapples with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the government is not taking the risk to create new clusters with foreign tourist arrivals and to compromise its coronavirus control efforts, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir said on Saturday.

“For the time being, we are still evaluating the reopening to foreign tourists,” said Thohir, who also chairs the national committee to accelerate economic recovery and COVID-19 mitigation during an online discussion.

Earlier on Thursday, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Pandjaitan said during an online meeting with the country’s business community that all non-essential foreign visitors will remain barred from entering the country, while the government will try to boost domestic tourism to keep the hospitality sector afloat.

“With regard to foreign tourists, I think we will not be welcoming them until the end of the year,” Pandjaitan said, shelving a plan laid out by the provincial government of the holiday island of Bali — Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination — to reopen for international visitors on Sept. 11.

Bali reopened its tourism spots to locals on the island on July 9 and started welcoming back domestic tourists from other parts of Indonesia on July 31.

According to an analysis issued in June based on the extraction of data location of 208,362 Instagram posts with hashtag #TakeMeBack, travelers revealed that Bali ranked second – with the Giza pyramid complex in Egypt ranked first – as the destination that they missed the most in the absence of traveling during the pandemic.

Dutch online reservation company Booking.com in May placed Bali among the top international destinations alongside Andalusia, Florida, London, and Paris that travelers around the world put on their wish list, based on a survey conducted on its platform in April and March to users grounded by lockdowns and international travel restrictions.

Pandjaitan’s remarks also ended speculation as to whether the central government would revoke a regulation issued by the justice minister in late March banning foreigners — except those arriving for essential, diplomatic and official purposes — from entering Indonesia amid ongoing efforts to contain the virus outbreak.

Bali authorities were hoping for the regulation to be revoked ahead of the island’s plan to reopen to foreigners.

Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana, head of the Bali Tourism Board, said industry players in Bali were ready for the Sept. 11 plan but acknowledged that the central government’s decision to keep foreign arrivals suspended “must be based on a more urgent reason.”

“There could be a macro outlook behind Jakarta’s decision, and it could be for everyone’s greater good,” Adnyana said.

According to Pandjaitan, Indonesian authorities will focus on promoting domestic tourism as Indonesians who were planning to go for holidays abroad, including those who were set to travel for Umrah, will be unable to do so this year so due to international travel restrictions.

“There is plenty of money around. No one is going on the Umrah pilgrimage, and those who used to go to Singapore or Penang for medical treatment are not going anywhere either. These are people with money to spend, and we estimated there could be tens of trillions of rupiahs. We want them to spend the money here,” Pandjaitan said.

According to Umrah tour operators, about 1 million Indonesians travel to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage each year, with many of them also visiting other sites in the region.

The COVID-19 outbreak has shattered Indonesia’s target to welcome 17 million foreign visitors this year, dealing a major blow to its national revenue.

According to Adnyana, tourism in Bali alone contributed 120 trillion to 150 trillion rupiahs ($10 billion) a year to the country’s coffers.

He also expressed concerns that the pandemic may still affect the government’s plans to revive the industry through domestic tourism as many potential travelers may be unable to make trips to other parts of the country amid concerns of contracting the disease and internal restrictions imposed as part of the response to contain the virus.

On Friday, President Joko Widodo said in his 2021 budget speech before the parliament that 14.4 trillion rupiahs would be allocated for the tourism industry’s recovery with a focus on developing several main destinations: Lake Toba in North Sumatra; Borobudur Temple in Central Java; Mandalika in Lombok island; Labuan Bajo on the Flores island, which serves as a gateway to see the Komodo dragon on Komodo Island and Mount Kelimutu, which has three volcanic crater lakes of different colors; and Likupang Beach in North Sulawesi.

This story has been updated from its original in Arab News

Push for all things halal divide opinion in Indonesia

After an official suggested that the Lake Toba area on Indonesia’s Sumatra island could be turned into a halal tourism destination, activist Togu Simorangkir came up with the idea of holding a pork festival as an act of resistance.

The event from October 25-26 involved pork cooking and pig catching competitions and was attended by 300,000 people from all over the country, according to Simorangkir.

“It was a big success even though it was just a spontaneous response against making North Sumatra a halal destination,” says Simorangkir, a British-educated activist who founded Alusi Tao Toba, a foundation dedicated to improving the communities around Lake Toba.

“The festival is not about religion, but about maximizing local tourism potential,” he says, adding that most people in the area make a living as farmers.

Muslims are forbidden from eating pork under Islamic rules because the meat is considered unclean.

The Indonesian government established a new halal certification agency under the Ministry of Religious Affairs in 2017. Since then, everything from refrigerators and microwaves to cat food can be certified as halal, or religiously permissible.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but is also home to several other religions. About 63 per cent of North Sumatra’s 15 million people are Muslim, but members of the indigenous Batak tribe, to which Simorangkir belongs, are mainly Christian.

Simorangkir says the idea of halal tourism in North Sumatra is divisive.

“I think there’s no need to divide people based on religion,” he says. “Here there are many mosques and people from all over the world come.”

“If they want tourism to thrive here, they should crack down on companies that destroy the environment,” he adds.

Simorangkir says the pork festival was initially opposed by local leaders and tour operators because of fears it would offend Muslims and hurt tourism.

“The word ‘pig’ has negative connotations in our society, when in fact it’s just an animal, like cows and buffaloes,” he says.

Critics fear that halal tourism, intended to attract Muslim visitors from wealthy Middle Eastern countries and all over the world, could mean a ban on alcohol, separate facilities for men and women and other restrictions.

North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi has denied suggestions he wants to turn the Lake Toba area into a sharia-compliant destination.

“It’s a misunderstanding,” he was quoted as saying by Detik.com, adding that he was simply suggesting that infrastructure be improved to serve visitors from Muslim countries such as Malaysia.

“So, when Muslims come to a place, […] there’s halal food,” he said. “Even in Thailand, where Buddhists are the majority, there are halal restaurants.”

The head of the Religious Ministry’s Halal Certification Administering Agency, Sukoso, says food and drinks, cosmetics, drugs and other consumer products will have to be certified halal by 2026 according to a 2014 law.

“As for household goods, it should be determined what materials they are made of,” he says, adding that products made of leather are subject to halal certification to ensure they do not contain materials from pigs.

The country’s first halal certified corrective glasses were launched in early November by PT Atalla Indonesia, according to the state Antara news agency.

“Even though glasses are not yet among products that need to be halal certified, the company has done it. I appreciate the effort,” Industry Ministry official Gati Wibawaningsih said at the launch event.

Japanese consumer electronics maker Sharp last year launched what it described as the first line of halal refrigerators in Indonesia.

The company expects sales in the segment to grow between 10 and 20 per cent with the introduction of halal products.

“We want our customers to have peace of mind when using our products,” Sharp Electronics Indonesia sales general manager Andri Adi Utomo said in a statement.

But some Indonesians have questioned why consumer products needs to be certified halal, with many taking to social media to ait their views.

“Now that there are halal glasses, watching porn will no longer be sinful,” one Twitter user joked.

Talk of introducing halal tourism to cater to Muslim visitors in the popular resort island of Bali, a mainly Hindu enclave of Indonesia, has also faced opposition from locals.

Earlier this year, vice presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno sparked controversy after he said he would promote halal tourism in Bali if he and his presidential running mate Prabowo Subianto were elected.

They were defeated by incumbent President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin in the April election.

Bali Governor I Wayan Koster rejected the idea.

“Bali is a cultural tourism destination,” he told local media. “There’s no need for such narrow branding.”

Jerinx, the frontman of popular Bali-based rock band Superman Is Dead, said the concept was irrelevant.

“Bali has always been friendly to Muslims. What the f*** is wrong with you people?” he wrote on Twitter.

With a temperamental volcano looming, Bali beckons ready to welcome global financiers, bankers

Indonesia is gearing up to host the 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group (AM 2018) in Bali in October, and despite the looming threat of volcano Mount Agung erupting, the government is convinced that all contingency plans are well in place as it looks forward to hosting up to 20,000 participants.

The volcano’s alert status has been lowered to level three or the second highest level, which means that the danger zone is reduced to a two-kilometer radius from the crater. The government also launched in August the official website for the event: www.am2018bali.go.id. Indonesia is the fourth Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member country to host the global meeting, after the Philippines (1976), Thailand (1991), and Singapore (2006).

Tasked to chair the organizing committee of the AM 2018 by President Joko Widodo is the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Resources Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, whose office oversees ministries and government agencies crucial to playing host to heads of governments, finance ministers, senior bankers, global CEOs and foreign journalists.

Dr Safri Burhanudin, the Deputy Minister for Human Resources, Sciences and Technologies and Maritime Culture at the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Resources, who is in charge of supervising the preparations go as planned, explained the latest updates on the plan.

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Safri Burhanudin planted a tree at Suwung landfill in Bali, in preparation to welcome delegates attending IMF-WB Annual Meetings in Bali, October this year. Photo: Kemenko Maritim/maritim.go.id

How are the preparations going so far?

Preparations in terms of venues in Nusa Dua are all ready. We are going to have a meeting with the organizer in February to evaluate the preparation. There will be a team from the IMF and the World Bank that will come to check and evaluate everyting. We are also finalising side events. Indonesia is only hosting and providing the venues, but the main organizer is the IMF and the World Bank, so they are the ones that develop the event program. We will be in charge of hosting and ensuring security for the VVIPs and servicing them.

How many VVIPs will attend the meetings?

All finance ministers from 189 countries will attend, and 32 of the ministers also serve as prime ministers so the treatment will be different for finance ministers and heads of government. We also plan to welcome leaders of ASEAN countries. There could be a meeting of ASEAN leaders on the sidelines but it is still being discussed, and we are waiting the final decision. We hope the ASEAN leaders will attend the opening session, and prior to that they would be meeting the managing director of the IMF and the president of the World Bank.

How many participants do we expect to welcome in Bali?

About 17,000 participants are expected to come, but there could be more if they bring their spouses and their families, about 20,000 people. We’ve heard that since the event will be in Bali, their families will come along later for a vacation. There are 21 official hotels appointed in Nusa Dua, Tanjong Benoa, Jimbaran and other areas outside Nusa Dua. There are 4,000 rooms available in Nusa Dua hotels for this event, while we are going to welcome 17,000 participants. We also heard that Bank of America already booked 200 rooms in The Mulia in Nusa Dua.

Why is the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Resources in charge of the event, instead of the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairss?

President Joko Widodo appointed Coordinating Minister Luhut as the head of the organizing committee, because we focus on the tourism part of this event, while the main program is already handled by the IMF and World Bank. We want to benefit the most from the annual meetings as a platform to promote Indonesia’s tourism and the tourism ministry is under the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Resources. That’s why we launched the Voyage to Indonesia (VTI) drive as a promotional program  with a number of activities such as seminars, public discussions and art exhibitions underway. We also offer the participants seven main tourist destinations that they can go to after the meetings, namely Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Mandalika in Lombok, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara if they want to see the Komodo dragons, Banyuwangi in East Java where they can choose to go to Mount Ijen for example, Yogyakarta and the Borobudur Temple, Toraja in South Sulawesi and of course Bali itself.

What about concerns regarding Mount Agung’s volcanic activity?

There were initial concerns regarding the volcano but it was because we didn’t communicate about it the right way. It made the public think that if the volcano erupts, the whole of Bali will be closed. So, we explained that technically if Mount Agung erupts, the farthest area affected will be 10 kilometers away from the crater, while Nusa Dua is 70 kilometers and the airport is 68 kilometers away. Even if there was some volcanic ash, the wind patterns would be mainly blowing to the east, not to the airport which is southwest of the volcano. If it erupts, it won’t affect the airport’s operations much.

What are the side events that Indonesia will organize?

There will be an economic forum that the Investment Coordinationg Board will coordinate and events to promote investment and the ease of doing business in Indonesia. Some of our main agenda will be to set up the Indonesia pavilion at the Westin Hotel and organize the Indonesia Gourmet and Food Festival, cultural performances, ASEAN Leaders Retreat and Host Country Reception at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park. The final rundown, however, will be released in April, as it is still now being discussed and will be evaluated during the spring meetings in Washington, DC.

Indonesia is footing the huge bill with Rp 868 billion to host this event, how are we going to benefit from it?

The cost we bear, including to organize major events such as the welcoming party and other promotional events, is not much compared to what we are going to get, which is a lot more. The participants are paying for the hotels, at least 17,000 hotel rooms and the increasing foreign exchange reserves through participant visits. We will be taking back most of the costs we spend for playing host.

What other special preparations are taking place, and is there any special infrastructure being built for this event? 

The infrastructure we built for this event is the underpass at the airport intersection before the entrance to the toll road, Tanjung Benoa cruise terminal, and Suwung landfill. The latter is already finished and it doesn’t emanate a stench anymore. We are also expediting the completion of the Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue. It should be finished by September. If all goes well, it will be the largest event we have ever hosted.

This article was first published in AmCham

Local livelihoods at the mercy of rumbling Bali volcano

With just a bag full of clothes, Ni Nyoman Maneh fled her home near the rumbling Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian resort island of Bali and sought refuge about 20 kilometres away. Continue reading “Local livelihoods at the mercy of rumbling Bali volcano”

Bali seeks to curb dog meat trade

Authorities on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali are seeking to curb the sale of dog meat, an official said on Friday, after an investigation by an Australian animal protection group revealed the cruel treatment of dogs at the hands of traders. Continue reading “Bali seeks to curb dog meat trade”

Briton admits to bashing Bali policeman

A British man detained in connection with the death of a policeman on Indonesia’s resort island of Bali has admitted to hitting the officer with a beer bottle and binoculars.  Continue reading “Briton admits to bashing Bali policeman”

Governor says same-sex marriage “stain” on Bali

The governor of Bali called same-sex marriage a stain on the mainly Hindu island, after photos of a gay couple celebrating their union appeared on the internet.

“It should never happen in Bali, even more so involving Hinduism, because it’s strictly forbidden,” Governor Made Mangku Pastika was quoted as saying by the Merdeka.com news website.

“It’s a stain and it’s a taboo,” he said.

The controversy emerged after photos of an apparent ceremony involving a gay couple – one man appearing to be local and the other foreign – were posted on Facebook.

One of the photos shows what looks like a Hindu priest standing in front of the couple.

A friend of the couple’s family said it was “a reception held for family and friends and not a legal marriage ceremony.”

Bali prisoner released early instead of namesake is hiding in East Java: Prison chief

The hunt is on for a drug convict who was released from the Kerobokan prison in Bali after guards confused him with another convict whose sentence was up, the prison chief said Tuesday.  Continue reading “Bali prisoner released early instead of namesake is hiding in East Java: Prison chief”

Executions may be carried out this month: Attorney General’s office

Jakarta – The executions of 10 death-row inmates, including two Australians, may be carried out late April, the Attorney General’s office said Friday. Continue reading “Executions may be carried out this month: Attorney General’s office”