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Chinese tourists stranded in Bali over virus fears offered flights

DENPASER: Thousands of Chinese tourists risk being stranded in Bali after the Indonesian government suspended flights to and from mainland China over fears of the deadly coronavirus outbreak. – AFP

DENPASER: Thousands of Chinese tourists stranded in Bali after Indonesia suspended flights over coronavirus fears will be offered charter flights home, China’s consulate on the holiday island said yesterday. A diplomatic notice said Beijing was arranging flights for Friday back to Wuhan-the epicenter of the deadly outbreak which has killed over 500 people and spread around the world.

Many of the marooned tourists are from the stricken city and surrounding Hubei province, the consulate said, but it added their return would be voluntary.
“Passengers’ temperatures will be measured before boarding,” the notice said. “Those with novel coronavirus symptoms will not be allowed to board the plane.” It was not immediately clear how many holidaymakers would take up the offer or who would pay for their tickets.

“The Chinese consulate general has offered repatriation to the mainland, but no one has agreed to fly back home,” Bali’s vice-governor, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, told Indonesia’s MetroTV. The consulate did not respond to requests for further comment yesterday. A day earlier it said at least 5,000 Chinese tourists were in Bali, the centerpiece of Indonesia’s tourism industry.

Refused entry
The Southeast Asian archipelago country attracts about 2.1 million Chinese visitors annually but the number has fallen from about 6,000 arrivals per day to just 1,000 since the outbreak began in mid-December. Also yesterday, Bali officials said they had refused entry to 17 foreign tourists who had recently been in China, including visitors from Russia, Brazil, New Zealand, Morocco and Britain.

Indonesia has yet to report a confirmed case of the virus, which emerged in a Chinese market at the end of last year. Tourism minister Wishnutama Kusubandio warned his country stood to lose up to $4 billion this year if travel from China and elsewhere is disrupted. Jakarta is also expected to unveil details of a plan to temporarily ban some livestock imports from China due to the coronavirus.

Indonesia stands to lose $4 billion in earnings from tourism if its worst-case scenario materializes and travel from China is disrupted for the whole year by a virus epidemic, the tourism minister said yesterday. The main tourist destination, the holiday island of Bali, had already seen around 10,000 cancellations by the end of last month, according to the Bali Tourism Board. “We had two million (Chinese) visitors last year with an average spend of $1,400 per arrival,” Wishnutama Kusubandio told a news conference. “With the negative trend seen in tourists from other countries, the loss would be even more significant. We will lose $4 billion.”

The minister said he was extrapolating numbers for the whole year, despite uncertainties surrounding the virus, because bookings for summer holidays, which have usually started to trickle in by now, have been low. The government has encouraged airlines to discount fares for routes to Bali, the tourist island of Bintan south of Singapore and Manado city in North Sulawesi to attract visitors from outside China, said Adita Irawati, a transport ministry official. Indonesian authorities have said they expect little overall economic impact despite the hit to tourism, pointing to the industry’s relatively small contribution to the economy.

Travel and tourism accounted for 6 percent of Indonesia’s GDP in 2018, the World Travel and Tourism Council said. Frederico Gil Sander, the World Bank’s lead economist for Indonesia, told a forum with foreign correspondents recently that although 10 percent to 15 percent of total tourists coming to Indonesia are from China, tourism’s share of the economy is small. The coronavirus epidemic has killed 563 people in China and two deaths have been confirmed elsewhere. Though the virus has been found in more than two dozen countries, Indonesia has no confirmed cases of infection. – Agencies

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