Despite surging cases of COVID-19 around the world, two popular tourist destinations are gearing up to welcome international visitors again. But are Bali and South Africa setting themselves up for failure through a premature tourism reopening?
South Africa’s economy has struggled under the weight of COVID-19 and tourism accounts for about 8% of GDP and 10% of jobs. Last month, South Africa re-opened its borders to tourism from countries deemed non high-risk.
But South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that citizens of “all countries” will soon be able to visit South Africa:
A negative coronavirus test taken no more than 72 hours prior to travel will be required. Expect health screenings upon arrival and if travelers exhibit any signs of sickness, testing and potential quarantine will be required (at your cost).
To Indonesia, where tourist-dependent Bali has hinted that international tourism may resume as soon as next month. Tourism contributes 55-60% of the economy in Bali, making the economic threat of continued lockdowns and border closures an even more difficult dilemma.
But this week, Bali Governor Wayan Koster stated that he has been in discussion with the central government over re-opening borders. A memo from that meeting leaked to the press which noted a targeted opening of December 1, 2020. The opening to international tourism would apply only for entry through Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS). Visitors would be tested upon arrival then transported to a quarantine hotel until results were available, which would be available in as quickly as 3-4 hours.
Dewa Made Indra, the regional secretary of Bali, noted the fine balance at play:
“This is not about whether we are willing or not. If we are willing and permitted to open, we would have done it from way before because this is crucial for our economy. But the central government is still evaluating our readiness, so that we don’t open up and it results in cases escalating. If that’s the case we wouldn’t be benefiting, but incurring losses.”
Neither Balinese or Indonesian officials have made a formal announcement.
South Africa and Bali will likely soon be re-opened to international tourism. Expect testing prior to arrival or on arrival, potential limited quarantines, but finally a chance to visit two wonderful parts of the world. Testing is not foolproof, but both Bali and South Africa should serve as helpful test cases for wider scale reopenings of international tourism in 2021. Hopefully these reopenings will result in progress, not further setbacks.