Bali hotels have slashed prices on rooms in a desperate bid to revive tourism during the coronavirus pandemic, with some lucky Australians soon able to escape their home nation for a break.
The once bustling tourist mecca has become a deserted ghost town, forcing accommodation operators to rethink their survival strategy and send their prices plummeting.
With the holiday island set to reopen to international visitors at the start of 2021 – just six weeks away – it means incredible bargains have become available to eager holidaymakers.
Operators in the town of Ubud have slashed normal rates by up to 50 per cent, where a room costs as little as A$14 a night and meals as cheap as 48 cents.
As soon as Bali opens up, Australians can seek government approval to take advantage of the bargain deals if they’re willing to meet strict criteria.
Businesses in Ubud (pictured), popular with Australian tourists, are offering some huge discounts on hotels as they struggle to make ends meet during the pandemic
Former Australian Bachelorette Anna Heinrich at Finns Beach club in Bali. More than a million Australians travel to Indonesia each year and make up more than a quarter of Bali tourists
Many Bali hotels now rent rooms on a weekly and monthly basis rather than per night, helpfully meeting Australia’s requirement that travellers leave for at least three months.
‘We’re targeting long stay guests, for monthly or even annual rent with a 50 per cent discount than the normal rate,’ Ubud Homestay Association head Ida Bagus Wiryawan told the Bali Sun.
A stay at Pillow Inn Ubud cost $58 per night pre-COVID but has since halved to $29, which includes breakfast.
Luxury resort The Yoga Amertham Retreat & Resort has been forced to rely on Indonesian tourists during tough economic times, and are now offering a one-night stay that once cost $24 per night for just $14.
‘The meals start from 35 cents per portion and for swimming in our pool we only charge $2 per person,’ Kadek Rudiantara said.
A search of Ubud hotels on booking.com reveals another ten venues with prices under $10 per night.
Flights in early January, when the country has flagged it is likely to open to international tourists, are on offer for as little as $774 return.
Many resorts in the town of Ubud have slashed prices on hotel rooms by 50 per cent (pictured, the Pillow Inn Ubud – which is offering room and breakfast for just $29 a night)
Travellers can still fly abroad if they prove to the Australian government that they plan to be away for three months or more (pictured, a family in Melbourne on Monday flying to Sydney)
Indonesia closed its international borders in April which crippled the Balinese economy, normally almost entirely dependent on foreign tourism.
Bali Governor Wayan Koster recently announced that the reopening of Bali for international tourism would be delayed until the start of next year.
It comes after he originally announced the island would reopen to reopen to international visitors in September but was overruled by the Indonesian government.
Businesses reopened to locals in July after a three month hiatus.
Pre-COVID, more than a million Australians travelled to Indonesia each year and made up more than a quarter of Bali tourists.
Around 1.23 million Australians visited Bali in 2019 – a rise of 5.24 per cent on 2018 figures.
Around 20,000 Australians visited Bali at any one time before the pandemic before the number of foreign tourists arriving in Indonesia plunged 60 per cent in March as the outbreak spread worldwide.
As a result, more than 73,000 people have been furloughed and another 2,500 workers have lost their jobs in Bali due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rooms at the Yoga Amertham Retreat & Resort (pictured) used to cost $24 a night – but now cost just $14 as the owners try and attract new business during the pandemic
Pictures from the island shows busy markets completely empty and popular beaches abandoned (pictured, Pandawa Beach on March 23 when borders closed)
Despite Australia closing its border on March 20 to stop the virus being transported into the country, citizens can still go abroad if they meet certain criteria.
In August alone, almost 11,300 Australians were given the green light to leave on ‘personal business including those departing for more than three months’.
HOW AUSSIES CAN BEAT THE TRAVEL BAN
Under current COVID restrictions, Australian citizens and permanent residents cannot leave Australia unless they have an exemption, according to the Department of Home Affairs website.
Exemptions are granted if the traveller plans to be outside Australia for three months or longer, as long as they provide an itinerary and declaration of intent.
The Australian Border Force guidelines and operations directives state a person who ‘has a compelling reason and will remain overseas for at least three months’ is likely to be approved for outbound travel.
This includes temporarily relocating, as well as travelling for work.
Studying abroad can also be cited as a reason, as well as working overseas or visiting sick family members.
Australian citizens and permanent residents can be allowed to leave if they demonstrate they will be away for three months or more.
They can also cite relocating overseas as a reason to leave, as well as travelling for work.
Compassionate reasons such as visiting sick family members is also listed.
The strict ban is in stark contrast to many other countries, even those suffering high coronavirus rates, where residents can travel freely overseas – including many European nations.
But any prospective travellers are urged to be vigilant after Indonesia’s confirmed COVID-19 cases soared past half a million on Monday.
They must also isolate in hotel quarantine when they return to Australia.
New daily infections rose by 4,442 on Monday to bring Indonesian’s total to 502,110, the most in southeast Asia and second in Asia only to India’s 9.1 million confirmed cases.
The Indonesian death toll stands at 16,002.
Australians are currently advised to not travel to Indonesia.
‘COVID-19 is widespread in Indonesia with continuing transmission across the country,’ the SmartTraveller website warns.
‘Domestic travel restrictions and social distancing measures are in place for many locations. In Jakarta, large scale social restrictions are in effect, including widespread closures of public venues and reduced public transport.
Yoga Amertham Retreat & Resort (pictured) offers rooms as little as $14 a night and meals as low as 48 cents a portion
Travellers can soon experience everything Bali has to offer (pictured, paddy fields near Ubud) when the country plans to open its borders at the start of next year – just six weeks away
Travellers wanting to go to Bali can still fly with Garuda Indonesia or via Manila in the Philippines with AirAsia.
When international travel is started up again on a large scale, there are likely to be huge changes to procedures.
Speaking on A Current Affair on Monday night, Qantas boss Alan Joyce revealed his airline is looking at mandatory vaccination for all passengers.
‘For international travellers, we will ask people to have a vaccination before they get on the aircraft,’ he told A Current Affair.
‘Certainly, for international visitors coming out and people leaving the country we think that’s a necessity.’
Mr Joyce believes the vaccination could become compulsory worldwide for international travellers.
‘I’m talking to colleagues in other airlines around the world and that will be a common theme across the world,’ he said.
‘And what we are looking at is how you can have a vaccination passport, an electronic version of it, which certifies what the vaccine is, and is it acceptable to the country you are travelling to.
The vaccinations are among a host of new travel criteria which could become normal as travel makes a come back.
Singapore already requires incoming travellers over the age of 12 to wear electronic monitoring devices if they’re not staying in a dedicated quarantine facility, while Hong Kong has a similar policy.
Papua New Guinea recently made ankle bracelets mandatory for international workers arriving into the country on designated charter flights, which must be worn while they’re in two weeks quarantine.
The sad reality of a paradise island devastated by covid: Aussie expats stuck in Bali say the tourist mecca has turned into a ghost town with derelict hotels empty and ‘deals at every resort and restaurant’
Australian expats who have stayed in Bali during the COVID-19 pandemic have told how the once bustling tourist mecca is now a deserted ghost town.
Footage of the island shows busy markets completely empty and rows of scooters and tuk-tuks that would have once noisily battled for a place on the road parked silently to the side.
Hotels that would usually be booked out heading into summer are now sitting at just 10 per cent occupancy – with their gardens and pools in disrepair.
Ms Cummins (pictured), who runs the Bali Buddies travel website, said local tourist spots were struggling so much they were offering cheap deals but still had trouble drawing in holidaymakers
‘There’s going to be some places that don’t survive this,’ tourism expert Karlie Cummins told A Current Affair.
Ms Cummins, who runs the Bali Buddies travel website, said local tourist spots were struggling so much that they were offering bargain deals but still had trouble drawing in holidaymakers.
‘You feel sad for some of the businesses that aren’t doing so well and the locals out of work but… if you’re lucky enough to still have an income in Bali, it’s paradise because there’s deals everywhere,’ she said.
Footage of the island shows once bustling markets now empty and rows of scooters and tuk-tuks that would have once noisily battled for a place on the road parked along the side
The Australian manager of the Bali Garden Beach Resort, Craig Biber, said his once extremely popular venue was surviving on the local tourist trade.
Mr Biber said the coronavirus pandemic had caught many businesses on the island off-guard as travel bans ‘came at a time when we were heading into a very solid period of forward bookings’.
Western Australian man Jack Ahearn, who lives in Bali, posted a video of an abandoned hotel in the normally-thriving Kuta Beach precinct on Saturday.
In the video, the hotel’s pool was full of leaves and the water had turned green from not being cleaned for months.
Western Australian man Jack Ahearn, who lives in Bali, posted a video of an abandoned hotel in the normally-thriving Kuta Beach precinct on Saturday
A green uncleaned pool at an abandoned hotel on Kuta Beach, Bali. WA man Jack Ahearn, who lives in Bali, posted a video of the derelict hotel on the normally-busy Kuta Beach on Saturday
The camera then panned to the hotel lobby, which had been stripped bare of anything valuable with only litter, dirt and debris left behind.
‘This video is one of many hotels that are done and all trashed like this. It’s very sad,’ Mr Ahearn captioned the post.
‘You can’t count how many others there are now and there surely will be more in the future.’
Mr Ahearn drives through Kuta most days to surf and has noticed the area rapidly deteriorate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘Every week there are more for sale signs, for rent signs, abandoned businesses and buildings it’s nuts,’ he wrote.
‘The videos and pictures I post don’t do justice to the feeling this place gives off now. The only time I’ve seen it ‘busy’ since February is when there is a food hand out and family’s are lined up by the hundreds.’
The camera then panned to the hotel lobby, which had been stripped bare of anything valuable with only litter, dirt and debris left behind. ‘This video is one of many hotels that are done and all trashed like this. It’s very sad,’ Mr Ahearn captioned the post
Even the McDonald’s fast food restaurant on Kuta Beach closed down in September.
Mr Ahearn said ‘it’s a long long long way away for places like Kuta to recover’ and urged Australians to support locals by sending money.
‘If you have the means, reach out to your holiday driver you use or any Balinese you know and love. I’m sure they could use a $1 or $2,’ he said.
Mr Ahearn ran a 90km ultramarathon from the north to south of Bali on September 14 to raise money for local charity Scholars of Sustenance – Bali Strong.
The runner incredibly completed the full marathon and raised AU$8,490.17, which is enough to provide 32,000 meals for struggling locals.
Five Australian dollars can provide 20 meals, $20 can provide 80 meals and $100 can provide $400, according to SOS – Bali Strong.
Kuta Beach has been described as the ‘tourist Mecca’ of Bali since it is lined with hotels, bars, restaurants and tourism services.
The popular beach is located in the regency of Badung, which normally earns between $19million and $38million from January to June.
But the regency had only earned $572,000 from January to June this year.
While international borders are still closed, Bali reopened to domestic tourism on July 31, which saw regency revenue increase to $1.1million in August.
Foreign tourist arrivals in Indonesia slumped 89.22 percent year-on-year to 164,970 in August 2020. Meanwhile, Bali arrivals plunged 100 percent to 12.
A tourist outside of McDonald’s on Kuta Beach before it closed. The fast food restaurant permanently closed its doors on September 29 after Indonesia closed its borders to travellers in April
The Indonesian government predicts $14 billion will be lost from tourism in 2020 and has introduced a $28 billion in fiscal stimulus to fight the downturn.
Bali’s provincial governor Wayan Koster said the island will not reopen to tourists until at least the end of 2020.
‘The situation in Indonesia is not yet conducive to allowing foreign tourists to visit Indonesia, including visiting Bali,’ he said.