Bali has reopened to foreign visitors, but backpackers might not be welcome there, according to an Indonesian government official.
On Sept. 13, Indonesia announced it was easing COVID-19 travel restrictions for Bali, which has long been one of the world’s top destinations for backpackers and hikers.
But just days before that announcement, Luhut Panjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating maritime affairs and investment minister, said Bali no longer wants to host backpackers.
“We will filter tourists that come visit,” Panjaitan said at a virtual conference on Sept. 10. “We don’t want backpackers to come, so that Bali remains clean, where the people who come are of quality.”
Panjaitan’s comments seemed to indicate that Bali plans to exclude backpackers, who are often thrifty students, in favor of wealthier travelers as it tries to recover from the pandemic.
However, on Sept. 14, a government spokesperson claimed there was a “misunderstanding” over Panjaitan’s statements, and he only meant that Bali didn’t welcome “visitors who violate health rules, regulations, laws and immigration regulations in Indonesia.”
The spokesperson said that all foreign travelers are allowed to visit Indonesia.
Bali had previously been categorized as a Level 4 risk area for COVID-19, which meant all international leisure travel was banned.
Now that restrictions have been eased, foreign tourists can enter the country, as long as they are fully vaccinated, take three PCR tests and quarantine for eight days on arrival.
Before the pandemic, around 6 million international tourists visited Bali each year. Many of those visitors were young hikers hoping to enjoy the island’s many temples, mountains, rice paddies, beaches and bars.
In 2020, only 1 million foreign travelers came to the province.
Bali had planned to reopen earlier this year, but the move was delayed when the highly contagious delta variant spread throughout Indonesia.
The country has experienced one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Asia, reporting more than 4 million infections and 138,000 deaths from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.
Indonesia’s daily COVID-19 cases peaked at over 56,000 on July 15, but health officials reported less than 3,000 on Sept. 13.
The rapid fall in infections allowed Bali to reopen to travelers.