Dr. Ir. Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, M.Si. commonly called Cok Ace (CA) is the Vice Governor of Bali. He has served alongside incumbent Governor of Bali, I Wayan Koster, since 5 September 2018.
Cok Ace has served as Regency of Gianyar Regency (2008-2013) as well as in many tourism capacities , including the Hotel and Restaurant Association ( PHRI) and is now the Deputy Chairman of the Bali Tourism Board, and is therefore very well qualified to bring us up to date on the status of Bali tourism. NOW! Jakarta and NOW! Bali Publisher, Alistair Speirs (AS), was fortunate to interview him recently.
AS: When do you think that international tourism will return to Bali? Perhaps we can look at percentages: 25%, 50%,75%?
CA: To predict the international tourists return to normal, we have to focus on the global tourism recovery pattern. Some important things that will influence the tourism recovery are:
• COVID-19 vaccine supply
• Level of confidence to travel
• International border crossing policies
• Global economic recovery.
With those facts, our journey to international tourists visit recovery is predicted to be back to 50% in 2021 and recover fully in 2022. So, Bali’s economic growth will hopefully be back to normal in 2022. (Reference in economy: Bali branch office of Bank Indonesia).
AS: Which markets do you see as the most potential to return quickly?
CA: I think Chinese tourists are the most potential market to be back quite soon, because China became the first major economy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the Chinese government travel restrictions were loosened, allowing their people to travel abroad including to Bali once international borders for Bali and Indonesia are opened. (reference: www.theguardian.com).
AS: And which are the most difficult to get back and why?
CA: I think the most difficult to get back is British tourists, due to the rising case numbers in the United Kingdom, this has made their economic recovery slow down again in October. (reference: www.deccaherald.com)
AS: What are the pro-active programs that Bali Provincial Government have done and will do to re-activate tourism?
CA: The pro-active program Bali government has done is CHSE (Cleanliness, Health ,Safety and Environment) verified certification. The Bali Governments both at provincial and regency/city level have been working hand in hand with the tourism industry to verify the procedures for CHSE protocol implementation in tourism business activities. When a tourism business has been verified, they will get a certification of CHSE to prove they are ready to welcome and service their guests in “New Normal” condition, as tourists trends have shifted to focus more on health and hygiene.
We are now also doing the program of 3T (Tracing, Testing and Treatment) for human resources in the tourism industry. Starting November 2020 we have done SWAB tests for them, 200 people/day, for free with a government budget allocation .
AS: What partnerships are you working with? The Ministry of Tourism? Bali Tourism Board? PHRI? Bali Hotel Association? What are doing with each?
CA: Of course, the partnerships we are looking for are needed from many sectors. The National Government (Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy), the tourism industry (private sectors), such as tourism associations under Bali Tourism Board/ Gabungan Industri Pariwisata Indonesia Bali, PHRI and BHA as well are under BTB system.
The partnerships actually have been formed since last October. The scheme is with the support of the Ministry of Tourism and Economy Creative. Bali has started to do tourism activities with CHSE Protocols (wearing face mask, social distancing and frequently wash hands/ use sanitiser), such as Simakrama (gathering events) in all Bali regencies and city. Edutrip (Education Trip). The participants spend 3 days/ 2 nights on a trip to tourism destinations around Bali. All expenses (accommodation, transportation, tickets for entering tourism sites) for a total of 4400 participants are being paid for by the ministry. Of course some terms and conditions are applied (Negative test free, must have social media, not more than 50 years old, must obey CHSE protocols and other terms). The ministry also supports Bali with the BISA Program (Bersih, Indah, Sehat and Aman) = (Clean, Beautiful, Healthy and Safe) to promote the health protocols around the tourism sites around Bali.
AS: What assistance has been offered to those unemployed from hotels, restaurants, tour companies, parks, etc. as a result of Covid lay- offs?
CA: Assistance we have given for unemployed workers in tourism industry:
• Ministry of Tourism and Economy Creative has distributed food supplies for them last April for a total of 40,500 workers.
• Additional subsidies for interest rate 6% for MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) debtors of Bank BPD Bali up to December 2020, as well as Ultra Micro Credit Program for unemployed and women with house-scale businesses. With additional subsidy for interest rate for MSMEs debtors, there will be up to 0% interest rate up to December 2020.
AS: Is there assistance being offered to businesses shut down, or nearly shut? Many are in trouble.
CA: Our regional bank (Bank BPD Bali) has done some financial policies to support business sectors in Bali during this COVID-19 pandemic:
• Additional business capital from PEN (Pemulihan Economi National/ National Economy Recovery) with low interest. With that scheme debtors will have more ability for operational reserve funds.
• Interest subsidy 3% for the first 3 months and 2% for the next 3 months up to December 2020. Given directly to MSMEs with business capital up to Rp. 500 Million, and debtors with capital over Rp. 500 Million up to Rp. 10 Billion who have proposed credit/ loan waiver to the bank.
• Government Guaranteed Credit for the new MSMEs debtors.
• Credit/ Loan waivers given by Bank BPD Bali.
(reference in economy: Bank BPD Bali).
AS: Now that we understand how dependent Bali is on tourism, what measures are being taken to diversify to new sectors? Which sectors are focused on?
CA: Tourism has played an important role for Bali’s economy growth, however since the COVID-19 outbreak, we realise we have to take measures to open new sectors.
We focus now on Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and because the Balinese people are creative, this difficult time has encouraged their creativity even more. To support this new sector, our regional bank (Bank BPD Bali) has distributed loan MSMEs owners and other productive sectors. Up to 5th November 2020, the allocation has distributed Rp 1.481 Billion to 7,060 businesses, 53,32% are MSMEs debtors. (reference in economy: Bank BPD Bali).
AS: You personally are very involved due to your extensive tourism background and involvement with BPPD and as Vice Governor, how do you think Bali has managed so far ?
CA: With my intense experience both as a businessman and policy maker (as Vice Governor), I can say, Bali has done its best to cope with this COVID-19 pandemic. Government, industry and the community is a solid team, we have worked together and supported each other so Bali will recover as soon as possible.
AS: What is the top of your list of priorities to do right now?
CA: Bali has to get the ‘trust’ from tourists to feel confident to travel again to Bali, so my top list to do priorities are making sure:
• Public sectors, such as public transportation, traditional markets, education sectors, including tourism facilities are ready and comply all CHSE protocols (with verified certification as a proof for public/ tourists).
• 3T (Tracing, Testing and Treatment) programs are implemented well
• Health facilities (hospitals, PCR based test laboratories, hotel quarantine and other health facilities) are all ready for tourism sector to return.
AS: Thank you Pak Cok ace for an excellent and comprehensive series of answers. We wish Bali the speediest (but safest) of recoveries.