Tourism is this peaceful island's main source of income, so after such a prolonged period with just a handful of guests, locals will be praying for a quick return to normality.
Bali conducted mass prayers on July 5 as the Indonesian resort island prepares to reopen to tourists shut out due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than a thousand people attended a prayer at Besakih Hindu temple in the town of Karangasem, expressing gratitude for the handling of coronavirus on the island and seeking blessings for the start of a “new normal”.
Bali has reported 1,849 coronavirus infections and 20 deaths so far, while Indonesia as a whole has recorded 63,749 cases and 3,171 deaths since early March.
The idyllic Southeast Asian island will gradually reopen this month for domestic tourists, while maintaining a “strict health protocol” to prevent the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19, Bali provincial secretary Dewa Made Indra told reporters.
The local government expects to reopen Bali to foreign arrivals in September.
Tourism is Bali’s main source of income. Travel restrictions due to the pandemic have hammered the local economy.
The occupancy rate at Bali’s starred hotels plunged to 2.07 percent in May, according to Bali statistics bureau data, from 62.55 percent in December before the pandemic hit and down from 51.56 percent in May 2019. “What I hope is the best for Bali and … all the tourists will come to Bali and everybody will be happy and healthy again,” Robin Tesselar, a Dutch citizen staying in Bali, told Reuters after attending the Besakih prayers.
Tourism-related businesses are preparing to for the reopening by implementing the health protocols, aiming to improve them until Bali reopens for international tourists, said hospitality executive Yoga Iswara.
(Reporting by Sultan Anshori in Karansem; Additional reporting by Fransiska Nangoy in Jakarta; Editing by William Mallard)
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Photo credit: People attend mass prayers, expressing gratitude for the handling of coronavirus and seeking blessings for the start of a "new normal", at Besakih temple in Karangasem, Bali. Antara Foto/Nyoman Hendra Wibowo / Reuters