Indonesia is ready to welcome Australian tourists back as early as next month after Bali reopened its borders to foreign visitors and agreed with Canberra to do so, a senior minister said.
The Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Pandjaitan, said Indonesia was keen to create a travel bubble with Australia, one of only a few countries it considered secure.
“We have to carefully selected (countries), so I think Australia, New Zealand later on, China, of course, and maybe South Korea and Japan. We are studying day by day,” Mr Luhut told the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents’ Club in an online discussion on Monday night.
“Right now we negotiate with Australia. We will see what happens, what they need from us and what we need from them. We need to negotiate standard of care because nobody can claim they’re better than others.
“I disagree when people say this country is better than your country. Look at America now. Look at Singapore.
“In Jakarta, in Indonesia in general, quite OK, but we have to be careful. If everybody is disciplined then we can much reduce the impact of COVID-19. That’s the key, because we don’t have medicine to cure this disease today.”
In recent weeks, amid relatively low levels of testing, Indonesia has seen a increase in daily infection rates, as has its capital, Jakarta, where hospitals are again overflowing with new cases, which average around 550 a day.
But the country has slowly reopened to kick-start an economy that has undergone its sharpest recession in the second quarter since the Asian financial crisis of 1998, leading to deadly uprisings and the collapse of the Suharto regime for 32 years.
Bali’s resort island reopened to domestic tourists on 31 July, prompting around 4000 additional arrivals a day immediately, and its provincial government is expected to reopen international tourism borders on September 11.
Australia Indonesia Business Council president Phil Turtle said a travel bubble between
the countries was “a great ambition to have when the correct protocols and
health situation is such that we are in a position to do that”.
“We would certainly view it positively if and when it can be implemented … but
(Australians) can’t even travel internally at the moment,” he said.
“I would think it would be very unlikely to happen before the end of the year but it would
be wonderful if it did happen.”