Indonesia has announced it will welcome international tourists back in weeks, including the holiday hot spot of Bali, as it seeks to kickstart its battered tourism industry.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the nation's borders would be partially reopened in July, with the destinations of Bali, Batam and Bintan to become "locomotive regions" that will revive the tourism economy for the whole country.
A statement from the country's tourism ministry said the plan would go ahead "if the pandemic is handled as well as expected".
"In preparation, the government has carried out a widespread vaccination program for targeted groups, including the tourism workforce," the statement said.
"In addition, the government has also initiated the Cleanliness, Health, Safety, and Environmental Sustainability certification program throughout the tourism sector in Indonesia."
The announcement was made at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) Dubai 2021, a travel industry event attended by about 200 countries, both in Dubai and virtually.
"By participating in ATM Dubai 2021, outbound tourism's leading global event, we are demonstrating that Indonesia is confident of maintaining its position as a world-class destination," tourism marketing deputy minister Nia Niscaya said.
However, while Bali may reopen its borders to international arrivals, restrictions and the lack of air links are likely to slow the uptake of Bali holidays.
New Zealanders still must undertake 14 days of government-provided managed isolation and quarantine on return from Indonesia, MFAT advises travellers. The lack of direct air routes make getting there in the first place, a difficult and expensive process.
Australians will not be able to visit until the Federal Government overturns its overseas travel ban.
This isn't the first time tourism-starved Bali has attempted to reopen to international visitors.
Plans to welcome back overseas arrivals in September were aborted due to ongoing travel bans and a local spike in Covid-19 cases.
The lack of tourists, particularly from Australia, has devastated Bali's economy, 80 per cent of which depends on tourism.
Chilling accounts from inside the abandoned holiday island describe vacant resorts, shuttered businesses and the once-bustling Denpasar airport largely empty.
The island has enforced a range of measures to quell Covid-19 outbreaks, including mandatory masks in public, which is taken so seriously a social media influencer from Russia was recently deported for violating the rule in a supermarket.
But the news of Indonesia's border reopening comes as experts warn the country is on the verge of another outbreak, perhaps fuelled by recent large gatherings for Eid al-Fitr, to mark the end of Ramadan last month.
Writing in The Conversation today, academics Prof Tim Lindsay and Max Walden from the University of Melbourne said plans to limit a potential super-spreading event at this year's Eid al-Fitr may have come unstuck.
"Traditionally, millions of Muslims return to their home villages to see family and friends during this time – a mass event known as mudik. Fearing a repeat of last year, when daily cases shot up by 93 per cent after mudik, the government banned travel this year – the second time it has tried to halt mudik," they wrote.
"But, as is so often the case in Indonesia, enforcement was badly lacking, and mudik rolled on, even if numbers were down. WhatsApp groups were ablaze with ways to avoid police checkpoints.
"Over the past fortnight, Indonesians have been gradually returning to the cities, fuelling concerns of a major outbreak.
"This is happening in next-door Malaysia, where the government has announced a post-Eid total lockdown of the entire country as consecutive days of record infections catapulted its total caseload above 550,000."
Prof Lindsay and Mr Walden, from the Asian Law Centre at Melbourne Law School, also noted Indonesia's unreliable Covid-19 data and low rates of testing in the country, as it wasn't free and replied on less-accurate rapid antigen tests.
Indonesia has been the worst-hit Southeast Asian country during the pandemic, with more than 1.7 million confirmed cases and 48,000 deaths, according to Reuters.