a flower on a pool with a mountain in the background

Rewind to 2019, when travel was bigger than One Direction or the Rolling Stones and new ultra-long haul flights made Asia feel like a short skip away, Bali averaged over 6m visitors per year.

The world class boutique hotels that adorn the island’s vastly ranging terrain would often sell out months in advance and airlines simply couldn’t add flights fast enough to keep up with growing demand.

But you know the rest of the story: then came 2020, a horrifying pandemic, a botched recovery and here we are recounting 2021, in much the same way we lamented 2020. And no, it didn’t help that Bali continually promised to reopen and then reneged with little regard for traveler confidence.

Which leads to the topic du jour: Bali’s tourism in 2021. How many people visited the magnificent island and surrounding areas in the year 2021? Not 6 million, not 5 million, not 4, 3, 2 or 1. The number is nothing short of shocking.

Rice fields of the island of Bali at sunrise, Indonesia

45 People Visited Bali In 2021

Not 900,000, 100,000 or even — 1,000. Bali took in just 45 visitor arrivals in 2021, and apparently virtually all came by boat or yacht. That’s not enough guests to fill even one boutique hotel, so it’s not hard to see how tragically sad these figures are.

Balinese officials decided to waive landing fees for commercial flights through the end of 2021, and even then, no airlines scheduled flights amid the uncertainty of previous rollbacks and the stop start nature.

Bali went back on plans for truly quarantine free travel multiple times in 2020 and 2021, and most visitors up to this very day require 10 nights of quarantine at their own expense upon arrival, even for the fully vaccinated.

That’s hardly an idyllic “eat, pray, love”, vacation. More like a short prison sentence.

No Plan For 2022?

Amid Omicron fears, Bali, like much of Asia is retreating back into its proverbial shell. Thailand is halting quarantine free entry and Singapore is suspending vaccinated travel lane flights.

Bali now finds itself without any commercial flights scheduled, and without a clear plan to reopen. The island worked diligently to vaccinate as many people in the tourism and hospitality sector as possible, but overall rollout has been slow.

With just 45 arrivals in 2021, the question for 2022 becomes figuring out new goals as well. 100 people would more than double 2021 figures, but still not fill a single hotel. A million people would certainly be a start, but it doesn’t seem as if any realistic chances will start until spring, at the earliest.

For now, it’s a tragic situation for a local population which has been almost entirely dependent on tourism. Without leadership to create clear, sustainable entry protocols, it may be a long time before this heavenly tourism destination is back.

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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  1. What confuses me is that the government is pushing domestic tourism hard while absolutely refusing entry for foreign tourists. Why not allow willing fully vaccinated foreign tourists to visit? Foreigners are likely to spend more money than Indonesians and Bali needs all the financial help it can get right now. Further, I’d argue that foreigners with ready access to boosters are actually less likely to spread Covid among the Balinese. These policies just make no sense.

    1. Agree completely. Such a wasted opportunity to get tourism going again. We had a villa booked in canggu for Nov, now feb, now next Nov. Not sure we will even get there Nov 22. Really hope to from U.K. via KL, but not optimistic.

  2. Four more years to go before the mania subsides (as I’ve said for more than a year now).
    2022, 2023, 2024, 2025 will be lost years – vaccine passports, lockdowns, pre-flight tests, post-flight tests, quarantines, masks (which are NEVER going away, EVER, on planes), etc.

    Mark my words: the mania will not subside until AT LEAST 2026.

    Boosters will be mandatory – in some cases every six months or you get your freedom pulled (i.e., your QR code no longer works). Boosters will continue for the rest of your lives and beyond by the way, just like flu shots are continual.

    Also, you will wear masks on planes FOREVER.

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