The West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) provincial government has closed direct access by fast boat from Bali to popular tourist spot Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air) off the northwest coast of Lombok, as part of efforts to stem the spread of Covid-19.
The new regulation is in response to a surge in confirmed cases of the virus in Indonesia, which jumped to 309 on Thursday, with 25 fatalities, the highest death toll in South-east Asia to date.
Lalu Bayu Windya, head of NTB Transportation Agency, issued a circular to close Pemenang Harbour and harbours in the three Gilis, as well as Senggigi Harbour in West Lombok Regency, from March 17-30 due to the lack of thermal scanners. However, Bangsal Harbour will remain open.
NTB governor Zulkieflimansyah explained that the three Gilis will remain open for travellers, but they need to go through Lombok either via air to Zainudin Abdul Madjid Airport or via sea to Lembar Harbour, both of which are equipped with thermal scanners, before taking land transport to Bangsal Harbour.
He said the three Gilis as well as the aforementioned airport and harbour have been disinfected and “are safe to visit”.
Awan Aswinabawa, managing director of A&T Holidays and chairman of NTB Chapter of The Indonesian Travel Agents Association, is in favour of the circular but said the new measures would inconvenience many tourists from Bali as direct access taking 1.5 hours was no longer available; the trip would now last nearly 2.5 hours.
“However, if we do more anticipatory actions (at points of entry), they will feel safer and more secure (after they arrive in Gilis),” he said.
The stricter access measures would raise travel cost by 50 per cent, to around one million rupiah (US$63), because travellers have to take a flight from Bali to Lombok, rent a car and then to pay for speedboat service to reach the Gilis, according to Dewantoro Umbu Joka, the head of NTB chapter of Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies.
Having said that, Dewantoro observed that domestic travellers were still keen on visiting the Gilis despite the central government’s call for Indonesians to stay at home.
Therefore, he hopes that the government can provide incentives, such as exemption of boat service fee from Bangsal to the three Gilis, to ease the transport cost so that they can entice travellers to keep visiting NTB in spite of the higher cost and longer travel times.
Dewantoro said that facilitating visitorship would mean the world for people in NTB who rely on the tourism sector for a living.