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Asia Minute: Bali welcomes international visitors, but not Americans yet

coronavirus Outbreak Indonesia
Firdia Lisnawati/AP
A beach vendor sets chairs as he waits for customers in Kuta beach in Bali, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. The Indonesian resort island of Bali welcomed international travelers to its shops and white-sand beaches for the first time in more than a year Thursday - if they're vaccinated, test negative, hail from certain countries, quarantine and heed restrictions in public. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

One of the most popular tourist islands in the Asia Pacific re-opened to international visitors Thursday.

Fully vaccinated travelers from some countries are now welcome in Bali.

China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates are on the list.

Americans? Not so fast.

The State Department says Americans still need a special visa — but if the Bali experiment works, local officials plan to expand the pool of eligible travelers.

Those who can go now need to take two COVID tests — one before leaving and one on arrival — and they need to quarantine for five days.

Locals are ready — Indonesian officials say more than 80% of Bali’s population is vaccinated — and local cases of the virus have declined sharply since July.

Bali international airport coronavirus Outbreak Indonesia
Firdia Lisnawati/AP
Flight information screens are blank at International Ngurah Rai Airport before its reopening in Bali, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

Bali’s airport is open to international flights for the first time since March 2020 — but Reuters reports that not many airlines are rushing to fill that opportunity.

In government, there’s a debate underway that’s similar to discussions at other tourism destinations looking for safe and gradual growth.

Last month a cabinet minister said the preference would be for higher-end tourists — saying “we do not want backpackers.”

The head of the Bali Tourism Agency put it a bit more gently to the Guardian, saying they don’t want visitors who break rules and laws, but hope to welcome those “who will spend more money, stay longer, and have a better attitude."

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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