Tourism-reliant Bali turns tide on pandemic

Tourism-reliant Bali turns tide on pandemic
1 / 3
Tourism in Bali, an island famous for its beaches, bore the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic. (AN Photo/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata)
Tourism-reliant Bali turns tide on pandemic
2 / 3
An international travel ban and an absence of foreign visitors to the country forced him and dozens of his employees to return to their village on the foothills of Mount Batur in the northeast of Bali. (AN Photo/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata)
Tourism-reliant Bali turns tide on pandemic
3 / 3
Balinese tour operators have turned to novel methods to weather the storm of the coronavirus pandemic as health measures force business closures across the island. (AN Photo/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata)
Short Url
Updated 10 November 2020

Tourism-reliant Bali turns tide on pandemic

Tourism-reliant Bali turns tide on pandemic
  • Travel workers return to island’s farms in bid to weather economic storm

DENPASAR: Balinese tour operators have turned to novel methods to weather the storm of the coronavirus pandemic as health measures force business closures across the island.

It did not take long for the outbreak to take a toll on I Kadek Didi Suprapta’s business as a tour operator in Indonesia.

An international travel ban and an absence of foreign visitors to the country forced him and dozens of his employees to return to their village on the foothills of Mount Batur in the northeast of Bali and away from the southern part of the island, where most of its tourism hot spots are located.

“It never crossed my mind that I would be back at my parents’ house in the village. I had to shut down my business as tourism abruptly stopped and we no longer had clients,” Suprapta told Arab News.

Towards the end of March after reporting its first coronavirus case, Indonesia’s government issued a travel restriction order which included the suspension of free visas for foreigners.

The restrictions brought tourism — a lifeline for the island’s economy — to a standstill.

Tourism in Bali, an island famous for its beaches, bore the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic.

The sector, which normally contributes 55 percent to regional gross domestic product, previously survived and recovered from two terrorist attacks in 2002 and 2005, the SARS and rabies outbreaks, and volcanic eruptions from the famous Mount Agung.

But eight months into the pandemic, islanders are yet to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Several closed shops, hotels and restaurants line empty and quiet streets which would normally be bursting at the seams with tourists.

The cafes along the main street in Ubud’s Tegallalang village, which offers a view to the lush rice terrace fields, as well those along the Legian Street, where the first Bali bomb attack took place, were shut down, with the street housing them wearing a deserted look.

Footfall in Bali’s Jimbaran, Kuta and Seminyak beaches is also low, except for a few locals enjoying uninterrupted access without the usual crowd of tourists.

Meanwhile, farmers in Gobleg village in the northern district of Buleleng said they had also felt the impact of the pandemic after demand for their vegetables, which were mostly grown for the tourism sector, plummeted.

“Hotels, restaurants and supermarkets absorbed about 90 percent of our vegetables,” said Gede Suardita from Gobleg village, who left the tourism industry 20 years ago to become a farmer.

Suardita added that the village also saw the return of nearly 1,200 residents who were previously employed in the tourism sector.

Suprapta agreed and said the retail space where his office was located has now been converted into a laundry shop, while he has switched to earning a living by opening a convenience store in Songan village near Lake Batur.

He says he used his IT skills to develop an app and introduced farmers to digital marketing. The app connects his former employees-turned-shallot farmers with customers and cuts out the middleman along the distribution chain.

According to data from the Bali Tourism Agency, 2,667 people in the sector were dismissed from their jobs, while 73,631 are on a furlough scheme following a freeze of the tourism sector. At the same time, the provincial government lost 9.57 trillion Indonesian rupiahs ($679 million) in revenue from tourism every month.

However, a public holiday to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on Thursday and the government allowing Wednesday and Friday off as collective leave days, offered Bali a respite due to a steady flow of domestic tourists from other parts of Indonesia holidaying on the island during the long weekend.

“We had up to 1,000 domestic tourists during the five-day holiday. The hotels along Kuta and Jimbaran beaches were full again. We are grateful that the central government has declared the collective leave days,” I Putu Astawa, head of the Bali Tourism Agency said in a virtual press conference from Seminyak.

Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Mahendra Siregar said the central government was working with Bali’s provincial government and other agencies to secure the reopening of the island to foreign tourists.

“We hope to do it in a pilot project involving a number of selected countries by the end of the year,” Siregar added.

The provincial government had intended to reopen the island for foreign tourists on Sept. 11, but the plan was shelved after the central government said Indonesia would not be welcoming foreign tourists until the end of the year.

However, Balinese have learned to avoid relying on tourism for an income, despite the sector being the island’s main economic driver for at least two or three generations.

“There are some lessons learned from this pandemic. We have learned that the agriculture sector is resilient since it absorbs the workforce from all kinds of background and education levels,” Astawa said.

In Gobleg, the villagers who returned have become farmers, said Suardita, who is part of the island’s Petani Muda Keren (Cool Young Farmers) network.

The network is using the tourism hiatus to turn the tide on the pandemic in the form of farming. The customs and culture of agriculture pushed forward Bali’s popularity as a tourist destination several decades ago.

But the quick money from tourism may lure those who found temporary solace in farming back to the tourism sector, said I Nengah Sumerta, also an activist at Petani Muda Keren.

“I think 90 percent of those who have benefited from tourism would return when tourism revives in two or three years. We have been so hammered by tourism since it is the easiest way to earn money compared to farming,” he told Arab News.


Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
Updated 28 min 7 sec ago

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang

Smugglers post gold from Dubai to India hidden in Tang
  • It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods

DUBAI: Indian customs have foiled an attempt to post gold from Dubai disguised in containers of the popular Tang drink.

After sieving the contents of the drink mix, Chennai customs officials discovered it had been mixed with gold granules, according to a statement from the Commissioner of Customs at Chennai International Airport.
Officials probing the racket found that the address of the receiver had been misused.
It is the latest ruse by smugglers trying to avoid hefty import duties for the precious metal by employing increasingly intriguing methods.
Earlier this year officials at Chennai airport also nabbed two men trying to smuggle gold through the airport underneath their wigs.
The hapless pair were nabbed after their unusual hairstyles caught the attention of officials.

They were found to be carrying two gold paste packets weighing almost 700 g


UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
Updated 11 May 2021

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal

UK-based tower operator to acquire Omantel sites in $575m deal
  • The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider

DUBAI: British telecommunications company Helios Towers has signed a deal with Omantel to acquire 2,890 sites for $575 million from the sultanate’s largest mobile network operator.
The move signals Helios Towers’ entry to the Middle East market as a major tower infrastructure provider.
The deal is expected to bring in a $59 million bump in revenues in the first full year of operations.
It also involves a $35 million plan to add 300 new build-to-suit sites over the next seven years.
“We view Oman as a very attractive and supportive market for foreign investments, with strong growth and exciting future prospects,” the UK-based company’s chief Kash Pandya said in a statement.
He said the acquisition strengthens its business through “further hard-currency revenues and diversification” in what the CEO described as the fastest growing markets in the region.
“We look forward to working with Omantel and the other MNOs over the coming years to further develop next generation mobile infrastructure solutions and services in Oman,” he added.
The partnership reflects Oman’s FDI aspirations, Omantel CEO Tala Said Al-Mamari said, adding it will create jobs and opportunities in the country.
“This move also allows the monetization of our towers at attractive valuation levels, de-lever our balance sheet, and will accelerate network development in next generation advanced technologies,” he noted.
He said it would allow Omantel’s management to focus on innovation and product development while outsourcing infrastructure management to an independent firm.
The transaction will close by the end of 2021, and the long-term partnership will last for an initial period of 15 years.


Arab world renewables growth slows in 2020

Arab world renewables growth slows in 2020
Updated 11 May 2021

Arab world renewables growth slows in 2020

Arab world renewables growth slows in 2020
  • Total renewables capacity stood at 24,224 MW last year

DUBAI: The Middle East saw a 5 percent increase in its renewable energy capacity in 2020, as the region’s push to go greener stalled.
Total renewables capacity stood at 24,224 MW last year, according to a report by the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
Growth in the sector slowed from the 13 percent increase in renewables capacity achieved between 2018 and 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on projects in the pipeline.
Still, the targets set by countries in the region could translate into a combined 80 GW of renewable capacity by 2030, IRENA said.
The global agency said the regional renewables push goes hand-in-hand with the Middle East’s ambition to diversify its economy, with projects typically bringing other economic benefits.
“The region recognizes the socio-economic benefits of renewable energy deployment, which is perceived as an opportunity for industrial diversification, new value-chain activities and technology transfer,” IRENA said.
The UAE has grown its renewable energy capacity from just 13MW in 2011 to 2,540 MW capacity in 2020. Saudi Arabia’s capacity also grew significantly over nine years – starting at only 3MW and increasing to 413 MW last year.


Indian oil refiners cut output, imports as pandemic hits demand

Indian oil refiners cut output, imports as pandemic hits demand
Updated 11 May 2021

Indian oil refiners cut output, imports as pandemic hits demand

Indian oil refiners cut output, imports as pandemic hits demand
  • IOC’s refineries at 95 percent of their capacity in late April
  • Several Indian states remain under lockdown

NEW DELHI: India’s top oil refiners are reducing processing runs and crude imports as the surging COVID-19 pandemic has cut fuel consumption, leading to higher product stockpiles at the plants, company officials told Reuters on Tuesday.
Indian Oil Corp, the country’s biggest refiner, has reduced runs to an average of between 85 percent and 88 percent of processing capacity, a company official said, adding runs could be cut further as some plants are facing problems storing refined oil products.
IOC’s refineries were operating at about 95 percent of their capacity in late April.
“We do not anticipate that our crude processing would be reduced to last year’s level of 65 percent-70 percent as inter-state vehicle movement is still there ... (the) economy is functioning,” he said.
Several states across India are under lockdown as the coronavirus crisis showed scant sign of easing on Tuesday, with a seven-day average of new cases at a record high, although the government of India, the world’s third largest oil importer and consumer, has not implemented a full lockdown.
State-run Bharat Petroleum Corp. has cut its crude imports by 1 million barrels in May and will reduce purchases by 2 million barrels in June, a company official said.
M.K. Surana, chairman of Hindustan Petroleum Corp, expects India’s fuel consumption in May to fall by 5 percent from April as the impact on driving and industrial production is not as severe as last year.
“This time it is not a full lockdown like last time,” he said.
“Sales in April was about 90 percent of March and we expect May could be about 5 percent lower than April.”


Sea and space in demand as UAE property buyer mix changes says Aldar boss

Sea and space in demand as UAE property buyer mix changes says Aldar boss
Updated 11 May 2021

Sea and space in demand as UAE property buyer mix changes says Aldar boss

Sea and space in demand as UAE property buyer mix changes says Aldar boss
  • Aldar said on Monday it had achieved property sales of above 1 billion dirhams for the third consecutive quarter

DUBAI: UAE property buyers are seeking bigger villas and seafront locations as the post-pandemic real estate market puts a premium on space, according to the CEO of Abu Dhabi’s biggest developer.

Aldar Group CEO Talal Al-Dhiyebi also revealed a rapidly changing mix of investors acquiring the developer’s units with the number of Indian expatriate and female investors rising sharply.
Aldar on Monday reported an 80 percent jump in first quarter profit from a year earlier to 544 million dirhams ($148 million), beating analyst expectations.
“The story in Abu Dhabi and Dubai post-pandemic has been very similar where people are moving to prime sea-facing properties. After the lockdowns in Europe and the sub-continent we saw a strong push of people moving in,” said Al-Dhiyebi in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday. “Our Indian buyers are now our second strongest buyers for the first time in Abu Dhabi. What is also interesting is that it is the first time we have crossed 30 percent female investors in off-plan sales since our inception. So the dynamics have changed. People are looking for opportunities. That has resulted in price increases in those prime and horizontal developments and we expect that to continue until the end of 2021.”
His remarks and the company’s underlying performance are the latest indicator of a shift in sentiment toward some segments of the UAE property market, despite a large overhang of completed and soon-to-be-completed new homes.
Aldar said on Monday it had achieved property sales of above 1 billion dirhams for the third consecutive quarter with its development business reporting a 47 percent year-on-year increase in revenues.