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Novel Coronavirus Update: Chinese Visas Suspended

Indonesia Temporarily Suspends Free Visa-on-Arrival Facility for Chinese Tourists

Although Bali has yet to confirm a single case of novel coronavirus, the growing number of countries refusing Chinese travelers and a generalized fear of infection, created a background and laid the groundwork for a misunderstanding between a luxury hotel in South Bali and a Bali travel agent handling a group of 17 tourists from Wuhan Province in China who arrive in Bali on the early hours of January 27, 2020.

In the midst of the Chinese New Year rush of bookings, the hotel had overbooked a number of guests. Included among the rooms overbooked were the group of 17 Chinese tourists who had booked and prepaid some 25 room nights via a local tour agency specializing in Chinese travel. Unable to accommodate the group, the hotel took the precautionary step of seeking a similar level of 5-star accommodation at a nearby hotel in Nusa Dua, together with a package of other incentives to compensate for any inconvenience caused by the hotel's inability to honor the original booking.

No longer having the rooms to accommodate the Chinese group, the travelers were turned away upon arrival at the hotel and diverted to another 5-star luxury resort in Nusa Dua where rooms were prepared and waiting for them. 

The Indonesian travel agent handling the group of 17 Chinese travelers, however, continued to pursue the matter via a written letter of protest dated January 27th copied to the chairman of The Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), the chairman of The Bali Tourism Board (BTB), and the chairman of the Association of Indonesian Tour Agents (ASITA). That letter from the travel agent alleged the guests had been turned away because they were from Hubei Province of China, an area of China badly affected by the novel coronavirus. The hotel, meanwhile, insists the booking was refused due to an overbooking situation.

Because of the widely circulated written complaint by the Bali-based travel agent and the resulting media attention, a meeting was convened attended by the agent, the management of the hotel, PHRI, BTB, and ASITA to discuss the case and resolve any outstanding issues. While details of the meeting were not divulged, the matter has reportedly been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, including the Chinese guests who ended their Bali holiday on January 31, 2020.

As mentioned above, the refusal of the group of Chinese tourists happened coincidentally at the time when the rapidly developing novel coronavirus international health crisis has prompted a fast-growing worldwide list of countries totally banning or restricting tourists traveling from China, or, in some cases, even people who have recently visited China in the past 14 days. That list of countries rejecting Chinese visitors now includes, among others, the USA, Australia, Israel, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Singapore. Moreover, on February 2, 2020, Indonesia joined the list of countries that have rolled-up the welcome mats normally extended tp Chinese travelers due to a growing concern of the spreading contagion. Indonesia has banned until further notice any travelers from Mainland China and those who have visited China in the past 14 days from receiving a visa-on-arrival.

Meanwhile, the panic over novel coronavirus continues. The PRC government has suspended all group travel from China until further notice, while depicting the banning of Chinese travelers from certain countries as an over-reaction. The Chinese government has thanked “friendly” countries who are adopting a more measured and realistic response to the health crisis.

Following a meeting of the Presidential Cabinet, Indonesia decided on February 2, 2020, that Mainland Chinese will no longer be extended a visa-on-arrival when visiting the Country, effectively curtailing travel to Indonesia by Chinese Nationals until further notice.

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