What will Indo and other regional surf destinations look like once this is done?
Originally published: 04/17/2020
The point of view of the ments: “It is very difficult to predict anything”
Surf trips were one of the first victims of the COVID-19 virus.
Even before the restrictions made this impossible, people were withdrawing from travel. When CW started talking with surf travel agencies in early March, they were working hard to reschedule clients who had decided their annual Indo excursion might be a bridge too far for 2020.
“There is huge uncertainty in the market,” Jamie Gray of The Perfect Wave told us at the time. “As I tell the team, we are going to be here every day to help people understand this. These are uncharted waters and we are all in the same boat.
At least if you had booked through a reputable agency, you could call and find a solution. If you’ve sent a few bucks to a solo trader somewhere, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the last of that money. (If and when surf trips start again CW strongly advise everyone to work with an agency based in Australia. Beware of all the best known and oldest freelancers.)
But as the pandemic continues to expand in some of surfing’s favorite third world nations, seizures occur and can leave these places in an alarming state for longer than we might hope.
To get an idea of how things are going on the ground in the Mentawais right now, CW spoke with Christie Carter, director of Wavepark Mentawai in the chain’s Kandui region. You might think it would be fun to be locked into one of the best surfing areas in the world, but that’s not exactly what it sounds like. Here’s what Christie had to tell us:
CW: So first: how are you and who is there with you? Have you been able to keep a large number of your employees employed?
CC: We’re fine, all things considered. We suggested our first guests of the year to leave after only five days at the resort, so we were empty on March 21. They barely creaked before Singapore closed its door to transit passengers. Alice, Amanda and I are the only full time overseas employees here. The remainder of the local full-time employees work two-week shifts. They receive their full salary when working at the station and half the salary when they are with their families at home. A month later, it seems to be working very well. No one has been asked to go back to work or come home for a vacation, they just do their own thing and keep a balance. Padang staff are still paid full time and have not yet been asked to voluntarily reduce working hours. Everyone understands that the company has no income, but I am committed to supporting them as long as possible.
How have the Indonesian government and local authorities kept you informed about the pandemic? Do you have a specific idea of how this affects the general population?
Last year, we formed “Resort Mentawai Bersatu” which is the only official government recognized resort association in Mentawai. We have ten resorts as paid members, and the president of our association has spent a lot of time meeting and coordinating with the various government departments in Mentawai and the surrounding areas of West Sumatra. It keeps members informed of what’s going on through a WhatsApp chat group. We usually receive official notices 24 to 48 hours after they are posted.
Indonesia has banned foreigners from entering or transit through Indonesia. The only exceptions are foreigners with specific types of visas received prior to entry, accompanied by a health certificate issued by a competent authority within seven days of travel. The latest version of this ministerial decree did not have an end date mentioned, so we don’t know when this is likely to change nationally. It is very difficult to plan anything.
West Sumatra only has Kuala Lumpur as a departure destination from the international airport, which was closed in mid-March. In addition, no passengers (local or foreign) are allowed to depart at all on ships departing from Padang to Mentawai. Freight is still allowed to cross the channel. So far fuel and food still arrive on public ferries, but the fast ferry has stopped working. So there are multiple obstacles for anyone wishing to come and visit Mentawai. Mentawai reported its first positive COVID-19 case last week. At present, only Padang and the mountain town of Bukittinggi are under PSSB (Large Scale Mandatory Social Distancing Rules), but the governor of West Sumatra has requested permission to place the entire province under PSSB. , and I think it will be approved in a few days. The effect on business has been huge like everywhere else, but with these most recent changes, it won’t improve the economy in the short term.
What will the Indo look like for western surf travelers when they start returning to resorts and boat trips etc.?
It is very difficult to predict anything, even what will happen tomorrow. But I dusted off my crystal ball and here’s what she said.
Despite the creation and distribution of an effective vaccine, Indonesia will not open up for a long time. Even with a vaccine, Indonesia will be one of the last countries to be vaccinated. The conditions for opening Indonesia will be when you can instantly be tested negative (or immune) at the Garuda Sydney check-in counter before boarding a plane, and then instantly tested with the same result upon arrival in Bali. . It will take a huge leap of faith for airlines to resume operating commercial flights.
It will be foolish for tourists to come here who are not already immunized or vaccinated, but some tourists will end up here and die in Indonesian hospitals because travel insurance will not cover anything related to the words “COVID” or “pandemic” .
There are many young, under-capitalized and / or poorly managed businesses that will fail all over Indonesia. So overall less choice for tourists than they were used to. There will be good discounts for traveling surfers, but for budget travelers who would normally stay in local village houses, there will be a lot of xenophobia and suspicion to overcome. This might make some trips quite uncomfortable and not worth the hassle. There will also be more opportunistic petty thefts than before for tourists who leave their bags open while focusing on the Instagram post.
There will be good land buying deals and bankrupt businesses for anyone who can afford to invest in the country for the long term. Rupiah and fuel will be cheap for investors with any kind of dollars. But there will be other countries in Southeast Asia that heal faster than Indonesia, and the short-term pain will be severe for investors. The government will find it difficult to attract foreign investors to build new assets or renovate old assets such as hotels, resorts, casinos and invest in public infrastructure, so the economy here will stagnate for decades. centuries.
All of this simply means a cheaper but lower quality version from Indonesia than before the virus. Maybe good for surfers with fewer people in the water in the short term, but xenophobia will be the hardest thing for everyone to overcome.
Everything else is cloudy in the crystal ball, and things like general house prices, social and economic stability, supply chain management and government intervention only make the outlook less clear.