Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bali tourist numbers plunging

THE number of Australians travelling to Indonesia has halved in the year since 23 people died in the second Bali bombings.
New Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show 139,990 Australians visited Indonesia - the vast majority going to Bali for holidays -- in the 12 months to August, down from 273,160 in the same period to August last year.
Analysis of monthly figures indicates there is no recovery in sight, with Australians still jittery about visiting Bali since the blasts at Kuta Beach and Jimbaran Bay killed four of their compatriots.
Tourist numbers bounced back after an initial slump following the 2002 terrorist Bali attacks, when 88 Australians were killed.
Indonesia topped the list of overseas holiday destinations for Australians in August last year but had dropped to fifth place 12months later.
Most of those who travelled to Bali were repeat visitors who had remained loyal to the island.
"The regulars still come but the newcomers and the families don't come any more," said Waywayan Budiarsa, sales director of the Ramada Bintang Hotel in the Balinese town of Tuban.
Australians once accounted for 35 per cent of the hotel's customers. The proportion was now 10per cent, he said.
"After the first bombings it was back to normal six months later, but that has not happened this time," Mr Budiarsa said.
Adelaide-based Venture Holidays managing director Cos Matteo said Indonesian airline Garuda had this month stopped its thrice-weekly flights from South Australia's capital to Bali. Garuda had signalled it would halt flights to Bali from Australia's east coast from next March. "Bali used to be our biggest seller. But now it's eclipsed by places like Thailand and Malaysia," Mr Matteo said.

Not surprising. As long as the Indonesian government does not take security of the country seriously, especially in Bali, how does it expect to increase foreign investment in this country? Tourists are going to safer countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and vacation spots in Thailand to spend their much needed dollars.

Is this half-hearted approach to security by the government because Bali is a non-Muslim island? Quite possibly. The Balinese have been virtually left to take care of their own security needs. This blasé approach by the Muslim government shows a lack of concern for non-Muslim citizens and further proves that Muslims and non-Muslims are treated differently in this supposed secular nation. Tourists from Bali quite often venture on to visit Buddhist temple Borobudur, the Hindu temple site at Prambanan, the orangutan sanctuaries in Kalimantan and Sumatera and other places. If tourism declines in Bali, then the ripple effect of this will be felt in other tourist areas. The government doesn't seem care and provides a minimum effort to militant threat so as to give the impression that something is being done. Just the same, when former dictator Soeharto's son Tommy was on the run, he managed to elude captors for a long time before finally being captured. A high profile person such as Tommy should have been easy to catch but half-hearted efforts and corruption delayed justice. Are these half-hearted efforts again evident in the capture of Noordin M.Top? Recent polls show that 1 in 5 Indonesians support Top's terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah. That's 44 million Indonesians that support the actions of terrorism. Is it any wonder, with poor security and the attitude of 44 million Indonesians, that tourists don't want to come here?

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