Bali’s pandemic renters face rude awakening as prices skyrocket

At the height of the pandemic, Maria, a refugee from the Philippines, paid 2.8 million rupiahs ($180) every month to rent a hotel room in Indonesia’s Bali.

But when international tourists began returning to the popular resort island en masse earlier this year, Maria’s hotel in Canggu, a coastal village popular with surfers and night revellers, hiked its prices five-fold.

“One day they raised it to 400,000 rupiahs per day without any warning,” Maria, who requested to be referred to by a pseudonym, told Al Jazeera.

“Now I’m staying in a tiny room near [the provincial capital] Denpasar with no air conditioning. It’s all I can afford.”

As Bali rebounds from COVID-19, the cost of accommodation on the island is soaring in a sobering reality check for renters, many of them foreigners who sought shelter in Bali during the pandemic.

When Indonesia closed its borders in April 2020, reducing daily visitors from more than 44,000 to practically zero, many hotels pivoted to the long-term rental market to survive.

Hoteliers rolled out huge discounts to attract some of the tens of thousands of foreigners on the island. Faced with increased competition, the island’s 4,000 holiday villas dropped asking prices by 50-75 percent to secure tenants. With no way of knowing when or if tourists would return, hundreds of hotels ceased trading and were listed for sale.

But with international travel roaring back to life, Bali has become a landlord’s market practically overnight.

“I was paying 10 million rupiahs ($641) a month, then one day the owner told me she was raising the price to 40 million rupiahs ($2,565),” Gina Marks, an American expat, told Al Jazeera.

For most of the pandemic, Marks lived in a small two-bedroom villa in Seminyak, a beachfront district south of Canggu.

“I understand it had to go up,” she said. “But by increasing it that much, I felt betrayed because I kept food on her [the landlord’s] table during the pandemic.”

The post-pandemic price correction has not been limited to short-term accommodation. Land and dwelling values in the most popular parts of the island are also appreciating fast.

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