Tag: travel

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

No more elephant rides and shows as regulations changed at Way Kambas

Way Kambas, Lampung- Visitors to the Way Kambas National Park, home to wild elephants in Lampung province, were disappointed after they found out they can no longer enjoy elephant rides and other entertainment shows after new regulations were imposed recently. Continue reading “No more elephant rides and shows as regulations changed at Way Kambas”

Travelling Indonesians work around gift-giving tradition

Jakarta – The Nusa Indah shop in Jakarta is chock-a-block with shoppers during lunchtime. It sells delicacies from all over Indonesia to customers trying to follow an old – but to many young people, annoying – Indonesian tradition.

They buy sambal rudi, a chili paste from Surabaya, or bakpia, a cake from Yogyakarta, and present them to friends and family as gifts from their travels. That is to satisfy the demands for oleh-oleh, a gift-giving tradition that is quintessentially Indonesian.

“Where is my oleh-oleh?” is a familiar line every Indonesian has heard when returning from a trip, be it domestic, international or even a religious pilgrimage.

Indriati Octarina, a mother of three who lives in Jakarta, thinks it is okay to ask friends or relatives for gifts from their trips.

Lemper- steamed sticky rice filled with shredded chicken wrapped in banana leaf- is one of the many famous dish from Indonesia.
Lemper- steamed sticky rice filled with shredded chicken wrapped in banana leaf- is one of the many famous dish from Indonesia.

“It makes me feel happy to know that people still remember us while they are travelling,” she says.

But some travellers are weary of it.

“My friends used to ask me for oleh-oleh all the time,” says Safir Makki, a photojournalist based in Jakarta. “It used to put me in a bind: either I drained my money buying oleh-oleh, or I felt bad for not having bought any.”

It also causes stress.

“A friend in Jakarta pushed me to buy her a bag when I was in Singapore, although I told her my money was very limited. She asked me to use my credit card and said she would pay me back later,” Jakarta dentist Erni Pujianti says.

“Some senior colleagues in my office would asked me to bring up to 10 kilograms of fresh shrimp or crab when I travel to the eastern part of Indonesia, giving me a headache,” says Purwanti, an engineer who often travels throughout the vast archipelago.

“They don’t care if I have to pay for extra baggage, and I just couldn’t say no,” she says.

The oleh-oleh custom goes back to when travelling was considered a rich person’s hobby. In earlier days, those who could afford to travel, especially overseas, were perceived as wealthy; they could share some of their fortune by bringing back gifts.

But the emergence of low-cost airlines over the past decade has changed the picture. Most people can afford to travel now, but do not necessarily have enough money to buy gifts.

“I finally said enough! I am not travelling to bring back oleh-oleh,” Makki says he told friends and family.

But the demands keep coming, especially because he often travels to exotic destinations like Iran, Nepal or Sri Lanka.

“I told them if they will pay, I will bring them items they want,” he says. While travelling, he posts photos of items suitable as oleh-oleh on Facebook, with the prices. Whoever is interested, will have to pay.

Shops like Nusa Indah provide an even more convenient way around the oleh-oleh tradition.

All kinds of sambal, or chilli paste from Indonesia in Nusa Indah shop.
All kinds of sambal, or chilli paste from Indonesia in Nusa Indah shop.

“We have customers who are too busy to get oleh-oleh when they travel, so they buy it here,” owner Ibu Hartati explains.

Crowds in her shop are ever growing. Nearly buried under a pile of snacks on her simple counter, she prepares customer bills with her old calculator and accepts cash only.

“We were too busy during our trip to central and East Java to buy oleh-oleh. But it would be awkward not to bring some gifts to family and friends, so this place is the answer,” Ahmad Zulkarnain says as he purchases layer cakes and crackers with his wife Yulianti.

Several shops in the Tanah Abang area of Jakarta offer oleh-oleh options especially for those who have been on pilgrimage to Mecca, and did not bring home the obligatory gifts. The shops have prayer rugs, dates, hijabs as well as “holy water” from Mecca, all “made in Saudi-Arabia.”

“When I went on the pilgrimage, I bought all the oleh-oleh in Tanah Abang, because I wanted to focus on my worship during hajj and not be burdened by buying gifts,” confesses Rahayuningsih, a 60-year-old housewife in Jakarta.

“I gave the gifts I bought in Tanah Abang to friends and relatives, and they couldn’t tell the difference,” she says, giggling.

She saved time, but not money, she said. The gifts she bought were lavish.

“I don’t want people to think that I’m stingy.”