Digital nomads, spiritual tourists and 5-year visa fuel Bali boom

Digital nomads, spiritual tourists and 5-year visa fuel Bali boom

People watch as a plane prepares to take off at Ngurah Rai international airport during sunset in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on May 23, 2022. (AFP file photo)
People watch as a plane prepares to take off at Ngurah Rai international airport during sunset in Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on May 23, 2022. (AFP file photo)

Bali’s bars and beaches may have to take the backseat as Indonesia looks to promote its spiritual getaways and booming tech scene to lure longer-staying, higher-spending travellers back to its islands.

Ecological tourism, sporting events and a special five-year visa for remote workers should bring 3.6 million overseas travellers back to the archipelago now that borders have reopened, Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said in an interview on Monday. This should help create over 1 million jobs for Indonesians, he added.

“In the past, the three S was: sun, sea and sand. We’re moving it to serenity, spirituality and sustainability. This way we’re getting better quality and better impact to the local economy,” Uno told Bloomberg Television’s Yvonne Man and Rishaad Salamat. 

Southeast Asia’s largest economy has scrapped most of its travel restrictions, allowing fully-vaccinated visitors to come without testing or quarantine requirements, as Covid-19 cases stay low and booster doses are rolled out. Tourist arrivals jumped 500% to 111,000 in April, its highest monthly tally since the pandemic.

Digital Nomads

Streamlined visa processing and more frequent flights should help the nation lure employees of global companies like Airbnb Inc. and Twitter Inc. that are letting their people work from anywhere. Around 95% of surveyed “digital nomads” have said Indonesia -- particularly Bali -- is their “top of mind” destination for remote work and they are ready to travel, Uno said.

The ministry has mulled granting a special visa for remote workers and business-leisure travelers since early 2021, before the plan was derailed by coronavirus resurgences, stringent border controls and a lack of flights. The visa would allow its holders to stay for as long as five years without paying taxes if they don’t earn their income within Indonesia.

“Now with the pandemic handled and all the ministries getting involved and cooperating from the health side to the immigrations office, we believe that this is an opportune time to relaunch this idea,” Uno said.

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