First person: Surviving the COVID tourism crash in Bali

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“When my parents died, I followed their desire to take care of our family home in Sudaji Village.

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

I was confident that I would succeed, based on my tourism and hotel background. I observed the activities of host families and learned how to transform my house into a home.

Putu Sayoga for ILOE

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

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

After that, the Bali Tourism Office recommended that I join the International Labor Organization’s Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) hospitality coaching program.

The program helped us ensure that our facilities and equipment met accepted regional ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) standards. We learned about professional bedding, toiletries, food presentation, guest services, and so on. Every month the trainer coached 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 got high ratings on online tourism platforms.

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

Putu Sayoga for ILOE

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

‘We were all panicked and worried’

Then, in late 2019, COVID-19 hit. From January 2020, foreign guests started canceling and in March, when the Indonesian government declared a pandemic in the country, we were left with only five guests, all of whom were trapped in Bali.

At the beginning of the pandemic, we received training on health protocols from the ILO: we learned how to protect ourselves by observing measures such as keeping physical distance, using masks and washing our hands. We maintained protocols with the imprisoned guests, who stayed as they sought 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, especially food: I bought rice and instant noodles as much as possible, because the shops and markets were closed.

My former foreign guests contacted me, inquired about my condition, and offered some assistance, for which I was grateful. Their support helped my family survive until the end of 2020.

The first seven months of 2021 were the most difficult. We were planting vegetables to survive, but my fellow villagers and I hardly ate during that time and I started to lose hope.

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

Putu Sayoga for ILOE

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

‘My homestay is alive again’

In the end, conditions improved, restrictions were lifted and we got help from the government. I have never forgotten my dream with a host family during this period, in which I repainted and refurbished the house.

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

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

In addition to running my business, I am a founding member of Sudaji Homestay, a group for homestay owners who have completed the ILO hospitality coaching program.

Not all host family owners speak English or understand marketing and digital marketing, and the group is here to share knowledge and help members maintain standards for their host families.

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

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

Putu Sayoga for ILOE

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



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