Rice fields of the island of Bali at sunrise, Indonesia

Indonesia is struggling to get its vaccination rollout up to speed, but tourism dependent areas like Bali just can’t wait much longer for a vital jab of economic opportunity.

Accordingly, Indonesia is strongly considering following Thailand’s lead, and opening Bali as a tourist sandbox, ahead of any wider tourism reopening. Vaccination rates on the wildly popular island are relatively high, and the plan could make sense to test a return of tourism.

Indonesia Considers Bali Sandbox

Many tourism dependent countries in Asia are reluctant to open up, amid slow rollout of vaccination efforts and lingering cultural fears surrounding the pandemic. But what if there was a way to bring vital tourism opportunity, while keeping visitors away from all the major cities?

Earlier in the year, Thailand came up with the “sandbox” plan to do exactly that, which allows tourism dependent island areas to open, under the condition that any visitors must stay on the islands for a period of time, away from vulnerable areas. A

After the success of Thailand’s “Phuket Sandbox”, Indonesia is eyeing Bali as a perfect candidate for their own sandbox, according to Coconuts.

Indonesia promised to reopen Bali, Bintan and others in early 2021, then July 2021, then August, and again in September, but now there’s no date in sight, after numerous failed plans. A sandbox could finally change that.

Rice fields of the island of Bali at sunrise, Indonesia

Using Bali as a “sandbox” could be a logical way for Indonesia to fast track its long anticipated tourism reopening, while quelling fears in under vaccinated communities. Visitors would likely be required to stay on the island for at least 7-14 days and provide proof of vaccination before travel, which would keep risk factors in cities like Jakarta extremely low.

It’s not as if visitors can just swim off the island and onto the mainland. They could try, but with abundant marine life, strong currents and hundreds of miles to swim, it’s not exactly advisable.

“We are learning from the Phuket Sandbox with its one focus of significantly reducing local transmissions in Phuket, and this can be applied in Bali later on,”

Indonesian Tourism and Creative Economy Minister, Sandiaga Uno

Unfortunately, there’s still no proposed date to reopen leisure tourism to Bali, even with the news of a potential sandbox. For now, it’s all guesswork. Read as: don’t book any trips, yet.

a building on a lake

In many ways, a sandbox in Indonesia could actually make far more sense than in Thailand. Thailand is often used as a mix of city break and beach holiday, whereas most visitors to Bali stay on the island exclusively anyway.

Some visitors are waiting for Thailand to reopen the entire country before visiting, whereas Indonesia would experience less of this. People would visit Bali or Bintan and then leave for other countries.

Even if vaccination rollout remains slow in other areas of Indonesia, once Bali reaches critical jab figures, a very rapid reopening could follow, given how isolated any visitors would be. There’s reason to be optimistic.

Will October, or November finally mark a return to international travel for this island paradise? We’ll see.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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