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Indonesia gives free Bali staycations to test tourism readiness

JAKARTA, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Indonesia is offering free tours and staycations to 4,440 residents of its resort island of Bali, in a seven-week tourism dry-run to promote the international holiday hotspot and test its coronavirus health protocols.

Authorities halted tourism in Indonesia’s prime attraction in April to prevent the spread of the virus, devastating its economy.

Though it reopened for local visitors in July, it is struggling to get back on track and has also seen infection numbers climb.

I Putu Astawa, chief of Bali’s tourism agency, told Reuters that 4,440 participants would be separated into 12 groups and given two-night stays at resorts between Oct. 7 and Nov. 27 to test out measures designed to keep visitors safe.

The trips will include local tours and participants are expected to promote “New Normal Bali” on social media.

Bali last year had more than 10 million visitors, 6.3 million of which were foreigners, Astawa said.

The staycation plan was announced on a day when Indonesia reported 4,634 new coronavirus cases, a record for new daily infections, bringing the total number to 262,022. Its death toll of 10,105 is Southeast Asia’s biggest.

On average, Bali recorded 48 cases per day from Aug. 1 to August 23. It recorded 127 on average cases per day in all of September.

Bali had initially weathered the health crisis better than other parts of Indonesia, but coronavirus cases spiked after it reopened to domestic tourism. “Lots of people gather and throw parties at the beach,” said I Gusti Agung Ngurah Anom, chairman of the Indonesian medical association in Bali. (Reporting by Stanley Widianto; Editing by Martin Petty)

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