Surviving the COVID Tourism Collapse in Bali: Global Issues

“When my parents passed away, I followed their wish to take care of our family home in Sudaji Village.

At that time, the town was already known as a tourist destination thanks to its cultural traditions and landscapes, and in 2014, I started to realize my dream of developing homestays, where tourists stay with local families, in my town.

I was completely confident that I could be successful, based on my experience in tourism and hospitality. I watched homestay operations and learned how to transform my home into one.

Putu Sayoga for the ILO

A bungalow at Esa at Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

It was a success; my homestay, Esa di Kubu, was chosen by the Bali Tourism Office to represent Sudaju Village in a national tourism award and received second prize.

Subsequently, the Bali Tourist Office recommended that I participate in the International Labor Organization Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) hospitality training programme.

The program helped us ensure that our facilities and equipment met the regional standards accepted by ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). We learned about professional linens, toiletries, food presentation, guest services, etc. Every month, the coach trained us and evaluated our progress.

The training also taught us the importance of digitization and digital marketing, and I started promoting my homestay online. As a result, sales and visitor numbers increased, and I received high ratings on online tourism platforms.

Dekha Dewandana makes a bed at Esa at Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

Putu Sayoga for the ILO

Dekha Dewandana makes a bed at Esa at Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

“We were all panicked and worried”

Then, at the end of 2019, COVID-19 arrived. Starting in January 2020, foreign guests began to cancel, and in March, when the Indonesian government declared a pandemic in the country, we only had five guests left, all stuck in Bali.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we received training in ILO health protocols: they taught us how to protect ourselves by observing measures such as maintaining physical distance, wearing masks and washing our hands. We maintained protocols with trapped guests, who continued to stay while looking for ways to be repatriated.

Due to the global and national lockdown and mobility restrictions, we had no guests and no income. We were all panicked and worried. I used my savings to buy daily necessities, particularly food: I bought as much rice and instant noodles as possible, because the shops and markets were closed.

My former guests abroad contacted me, inquired about my condition and offered help, for which I was grateful. Your support helped my family survive until the end of 2020.

The first seven months of 2021 were the most difficult. We were growing vegetables to survive, but my fellow villagers and I barely ate during that period and I began to lose hope.

Dekha Dewandana and his wife greet guests with a traditional turmeric drink at Esa at Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

Putu Sayoga for the ILO

Dekha Dewandana and his wife greet guests with a traditional turmeric drink at Esa at Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

‘My family home has come back to life’

Eventually, conditions improved, restrictions were lifted, and we received assistance from the government. I never forgot my dream of staying in a homestay during this period, during which I painted and fixed up the house.

Foreign visitors began to return, and in January 2022 I received a group of tourists from Denmark and Switzerland.

I’m glad my homestay has come to life again.

As well as running my business, I am one of the founders of Sudaji Homestay, a group for homestay owners who have completed the ILO Hospitality Training programme.

Not all homestay owners can speak English or understand marketing and digital marketing, and the group is there to share knowledge and help members maintain standards for their homestays.

I share my skills and knowledge so that we can continue to maintain our reputation as one of the leading tourist villages in Indonesia, so that my compatriots do not have to look elsewhere for work.”

Dekha Dewandana arranges words with flowers at Esa at Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

Putu Sayoga for the ILO

Dekha Dewandana arranges words with flowers at Esa at Kubu Homestay in Sudaji Village, Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.

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