The country’s tourist sector has taken a hit amid the novel coronavirus outbreak in China that has spread to other countries, as more trip and hotel booking cancellations have been reported following travel bans on tourists to and from China.
Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) chairman Hariyadi Sukamdani said on Friday that more than 40,000 hotel bookings in Bali had been canceled since the outbreak.
"This coronavirus has overwhelmed us, especially the tourist sector in Bali where more than 40,000 room bookings were canceled and 20,000 people annulled their visits,” said Hariyadi. “Import and export activities, including the export of live fish, has also been disrupted.”
"We should be more vigilant. We did not imagine that the impact of the coronavirus outbreak would be greater than that of SARS [Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome]," he said.
The SARS epidemic, which also started in China, killed around 800 people worldwide in 2002-2003. The 2019-nCoV virus, linked to a wet market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has infected more than 40,100 people since it was first reported early this year with a death toll of around 900 as of Sunday.
Hariyadi called on stakeholders to work hand-in-hand to tackle the issue as the outbreak also occurred during the low season.
"If this continues, I think it could turn into a serious matter," he said.
Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said on Friday that Bali, North Sulawesi and Riau Islands had been affected as they were the gates to several popular destinations for Chinese tourists, such as Bunaken and Bintan.
To ease the tourist industry’s burden, the government is encouraging domestic tourists to visit such destinations.
"I have asked Indonesian carriers to give special prices or discounts to those destinations," said Budi Karya.
Previously, the ministry planned to provide additional international flight slots to Bali from East Asia and Middle East countries to boost foreign arrivals to Bali.