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Varying Covid-19 restrictions nationwide hamper Indonesia’s tourism recovery

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The Indonesian government’s ever-changing pandemic rules, coupled with restrictions of varying levels nationwide, have stirred up confusion among industry players, and sparked concerns that it could serve as a major deterrent to travel.

In North Sumatra, for example, the government has imposed public mobility restrictions or PPKM level 4 – the highest level of restrictions – in Medan and Pematangsiantar cities, while other cities in the province are in level 3 category, due to different infection rates.

Tourists walking on wooden bridge in Banjarnegara Indonesia
Lack of a common set of Covid-19 regulations derails Indonesia’s domestic tourism recovery; tourists walking on a bridge in Banjarnegara, Indonesia pictured

Under the regulation, cities categorised as level 4 areas must close tourist attractions while those under level 3 restrictions may remain open with a limited number of visitors.

However, there are inconsistencies with regulation implementation, according to tour manager of Horas Tours, Christine Kowandi. She noted, for instance, that tourist attractions in Samosir are closed, despite the city being in the level 3 category.

Furthermore, Samosir Tourism Agency has announced that only travellers with proof of vaccination plus a negative Covid-19 antigen test result would be allowed entry when the attractions reopen.

Christine questioned the need for vaccinated travellers to present an additional negative Covid-19 test result, given that the tests, and in particular PCR tests, are expensive and have short validities.

She also pointed out a lack of standardisation in Covid measures applied to areas under the same category of level restriction. For instance, while Medan and Bali are both classified as level 4, travellers are required to show a negative PCR test result to visit Medan, while those looking to enter Bali can present a negative result of a rapid antigen test, which costs less.

In addition, although Bali and Jakarta are both under level 4 curbs, travellers checking into Jakarta hotels will need to show their vaccination certificate, while Bali hotels do not require that as only vaccinated travellers are allowed to enter the resort island.

That lack of a common regulatory framework, alongside costly Covid-19 tests, would quash travel appetite, opined Christine.

Agreeing, Fransiska Handoko, vice chairman of the Bali Hotels Association (BHA), said: “When antigen test was replaced with (the costlier) PCR test as a travel requirement during the early period of PPKM, hotels in Bali faced a wave of cancellations from domestic travellers.”

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