KENDARI, KOMPAS.com – Wakatobi is set on welcoming local and international visitors in July 2020, said the provincial government.
Since the first Covid-19 cases in Indonesia were announced on March 2 up until June, Wakatobi has had nearly zero tourist arrivals.
This led to air transportation coming to a complete halt.
“We are expecting visits from domestic and international travelers at the earliest July 2020. Travelers must remain mindful of Covid-19 health protocols,” said Head of Wakatobi Province Tourism Nadar on June 22.
Tour operators in Bali and Jakarta have often asked when Wakatobi will reopen to tourists, said Nadar.
“Recently, the government through the district and provincial branch’s Covid-19 Task Force proposed the reopening of Wakatobi at the soonest."
The reopening includes the enforcement of Covid-19 health protocols, added Nadar.
Wings Air has opened one flight from Haluoleo Kendari Airport to Matahora Wakatobi. There are also two flights to and from Denpasar, Bali to Tomia Airport every week.
“Tourists who will come to Wakatobi can do so by air or sea. They can take a ferry from Baubau or a fast boat called the Jet Liner,” said Nadar.
The Wakatobi provincial government’s data from January to February 2020 listed around 28,000 tourists including 6,000 international visitors.
Other tourist destinations ready to reopen
The Wakatobi provincial government’s desire to reopen its tourism sector is in keeping with similar calls from Indonesia’s other regions.
Although Indonesia’s most popular destination of Bali remains closed to tourists and is in no rush to reopen, other places have reopened.
Three Gili Islands including Gili Trawangan in North Lombok announced plans to reopen.
With reports of zero Covid-19 cases, the Gili Islands are preparing for a new normal transition.
By welcoming tourists to the Gili Islands, an estimated 120 hotels and restaurants will begin operations as well as having 4,000 workers back to work.
Indonesia has also voiced plans to create a travel bubble with Malaysia with a focus on Lake Toba and Aceh.
Such efforts will only be possible once Lake Toba receives the green zone status as it wrangles with the coronavirus pandemic.
Aceh, on the other hand, can be included in the proposed travel bubble as it is already in the green zone.
As tourism stakeholders across Indonesia express their eagerness to welcome tourists, they must first win back the trust of travelers.
As such, several provincial governments have called for the creation of a standard operating procedure ahead of the new normal.
It is hoped that such a set of official measures will build trust among international travelers that Indonesia is well-prepared to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.
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