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Jakarta Post

Jakarta, Bali prepare to welcome conventions despite rising COVID-19 cases

  • Mardika Parama

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, July 8, 2020   /   03:26 pm
Jakarta, Bali prepare to welcome conventions despite rising COVID-19 cases A worker disinfects Fatahillah Square in front of the closed Jakarta History Museum in the popular tourist area of Kota Tua, West Jakarta, on Tuesday. JP/Seto Wardhana (JP/Seto Wardhana)

Indonesian tourism hotspots Jakarta and Bali are preparing to welcome meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition (MICE) events as part of the provinces' tourism rebound strategy despite the rising COVID-19 cases in both provinces.

Jakarta tourism agency head Cucu Ahmad Kurnia said on Monday that the agency would issue a regulation allowing MICE events to be held at 50 percent capacity. The Tourism Ministry called for the suspension of MICE events in March to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“Hopefully in the next day or two we will issue a letter to allow MICE events at 50 percent capacity. We will also allow outdoor corporate events and golf tournaments to be held in Jakarta,” he said during a webinar held by marketing consulting firm Markplus.

The agency’s decision to allow such mass events comes after the city government’s decision on July 1 to extend transitional COVID-19 restrictions for another 14 days. Jakarta had recorded 12,857 cases as of Tuesday, with 190 new confirmed cases, making it the second-highest contributor to the nation’s total.

Cucu said that Jakarta had lost trillions of rupiah in tax revenue from the tourism industry as businesses had been shut down since large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) began in March.

Tourism has been severely affected by the ongoing health crisis. Indonesia recorded 163,646 foreign tourist arrivals in May, down by 86.9 percent from the 1.24 million visitors welcomed in the same period last year, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS).

Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport saw an almost complete disappearance of foreign arrivals in May of this year, BPS data showed.

Currently, Jakarta’s 1,530 clubs and discotheques remain closed despite the province’s decision to relax its PSBB policy, according to Cucu. In addition, 99 of the 637 hotels in the capital are closed, as are 123 of its 6,169 restaurants.

As of May 31, the Jakarta government had collected Rp 1.7 trillion (US$117.5 million) in tax revenue from hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues over the year, a far cry from the 2020 regional budget (APBD) target of Rp 7.4 trillion. The figure is 27.1 percent lower than in the same period in 2019.

“Jakarta’s tourism industry has been in a freefall since the pandemic hit,” he said.

The island of Bali also plans to integrate MICE events into their tourism rebound plan, despite their vision to pivot to sustainable ecotourism.

“We seem to have forgotten to take care of nature in the past, causing an imbalance, and therefore, nature is testing us right now. We have to instill our tourism sector with new mindsets to promote sustainability,” Bali tourism agency head I Putu Astawa said during the webinar.

The agency’s 2020 action program, however, includes a plan to increase the number of MICE events held on the island by government agencies, state-owned enterprises and corporations starting in July.

The island is also planning to organize a “Bali MICE Exchange” in early December, inviting domestic and international event organizers to promote MICE tourism on the island, Putu’s presentation showed.

Bali Governor I Wayan Koster previously announced a three-step plan to reopen activity in compliance with “new normal” policies that included reopening the region’s popular tourist destinations to international visitors on Sept. 11 despite the high COVID-19 infection rate on the island.

As of Tuesday, the island had recorded 1,940 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the ninth-highest number of regional cases in Indonesia, with 25 deaths and 1,034 recoveries, according to Bali government data.

“We have been losing income for more than 3 months. While there is still COVID-19 transmission in Bali, we have to come to terms with the virus because we can’t eradicate it,” Putu said.