Tourism contributes more than 50% of Bali's income. -Alamy
After being shuttered for 17 months, the upmarket Hujan Locale restaurant in the Balinese town of Ubud is slowly coming back to life.
Outside, staff greet a box truck driver who delivers fresh vegetables and stacks of lemongrass, ginger flowers and kaffir lime leaves. Kitchen workers are busy preparing for the day ahead. A chandelier above a stairway is once again casting a warm yellow shimmer across the walls.
Before the pandemic, Hujan Locale was a thriving business that served local dishes - including bebek goreng, Balinese fried duck with mango chilli sauce, and tongseng kambing, central Java's slow-braised lamb wrapped in cabbage - to foreign tourists. Covid, and a ban on foreign travellers introduced late March 2020, destroyed its income. The restaurant used to employ 50 staff members; now there are just 15. There are, however, some signs of hope.
On Thursday, Bali is due to reopen to travellers from several countries including China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. Visitors will be required to follow certain regulations - they need to be fully vaccinated and take two PCR tests, both before their flight and on arrival. They will also need to quarantine. Initially, officials said people must do so for eight days on arrival, but a last minute announcement this week reduced the requirement to five days.
"Everyone's been waiting for this. Tourism is the backbone of Bali," said Hujan Locale's manager, Kadek Miharjaya.
Bali, Indonesia's main tourism hotspot, drew more than 6 million travellers in 2019. But since the start of the pandemic, the streets in Ubud, which would normally be filled with tourists, have been empty. Many businesses are closed, and the area is peppered with "for rent" signs.
The plan to partially reopen Bali is a first step towards reviving the tourism industry, which contributes more than 50% of the island's income, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation.