Bali, one of Southeast Asia's most popular backpacking destinations, was set to open to tourists in September but after a rise in daily new coronavirus cases the government has decided to postpone international tourism until 2021.

The Indonesian island, which closed its borders and suspended its visas-on-arrival policy in March, initially reported some success in managing the coronavirus outbreak with relatively low infection rates. With numbers low the tourism board had been looking to reopen the island's most popular vacation spots to local tourists from to international tourists from September 11. However, in a statement released this weekend, Bali Governor I Wayan Koster announced that international tourism will now be delayed until 2021.

"The Indonesian government still enforces a policy that prohibits its citizens from travelling abroad, at least until the end of 2020. In line with that, the Indonesian government has not been able to open the door of entry for foreign tourists to Indonesia until the end of 2020, because Indonesia is still in the red zone category. The situation in Indonesia is not yet conducive to allowing foreign tourists to visit Indonesia, including visiting Bali," the statement read.

According to the New York Times, Mr Koster added that many potential international visitors are still subject to travel bans in their own countries, including Australia, which is one of the biggest visitors to Bali, accounting for 1.23 million of its international tourists last year. Australia's travel ban is likely to last until 2021.

Pool sculptures at luxury Mulia Resort hotel
Nusa Dua may be the first Balinese island to welcome tourists ©Andrey Shapovalov cit/Shutterstock

Bali is one of the country's most important tourist destinations and in an effort to safely resume tourism services, which have been open to domestic tourists since July, a new CHS (Cleanliness, Health, and Safety) program has been rolled out to set out guidelines for increased health, hygiene and safety standards. It's hoped the program will restore visitors' confidence in the safety of Bali as a destination when it opens to a wider audience next year. 

Rooftop view of Borobudur Temple
Yogyakarta famous for the Borobudur Temple could welcome tourists from October ©vicnt/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has hit Bali's tourism-dependent workforce hard with almost all tourist destinations, attractions, and facilities suspended or closed since the state of emergency was implemented in March. I Ketut Ardana, head of Bali's branch of the Indonesian National Organisation for Tours and Travel (ASITA), told the ABC "80% of people in Bali rely on tourism whether directly or indirectly. All of us in the industry are really struggling right now, what we're waiting for is for this pandemic to end."

This article was first published on 19 May and updated on 24 August, 2020.

Read more:

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How I found peace in Bali after a lifetime of solo travel
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This article was first published May 2020 and updated August 2020

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