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Indonesia's tourism feels the impact of Jakarta bombings

Jul 26, 2009

Jakarta - A week after the bomb blasts at two of Jakarta`s five-star hotels, the country`s tourism industry is beginning to feel the impact of the terror attacks with cancellations of visits by some foreign tourists to Bali and other regions in the country.

Some hotels in Bali, Indonesia`s tourist resort island, have reported cancellations of foreign tourist arrivals while the Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA) for East Java said that a group of tourists from Singapore and Malaysia had also canceled a planned visit.

However, this visit cancellations did not yet reflect the whole picture of the impact of the bomb explosions on the country`s tourism. "Although some hotels in Bali had reported cancellations of foreign tourist arrivals, this could not yet be taken as reflecting the whole situation in the industry," ASITA chairman Ben Sukma said.

Therefore, ASITA is taking stock of the impact of last week`s hotel bombings in Jakarta`s Mega Kuningan area. "The bombings will definitely have an impact and to know the extent of the impact we have instructed our regional chapters to take stock," Ben Sukma said.

He said he could not as yet measure the negative impact of the bombings at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton but believed the terror attacks would not have as big an impact on the tourism industry as that of the Bali bombings in 2002 when foreign tourist visits dropped by up to 70 percent.

Following the Bali bombings, an exodus of foreign tourists occurred not only in Bali but also in other regions, including Jakarta, causing a drop of up to 70 percent in tourist arrivals.

"When the Bali bombings occurred all people were afraid including foreigners because the issue of terrorism was just spreading across the globe. This time, we have not seen such a trend," he said.

Although the impact this time is not as big as that in 2002, yet ASITA began to revise downward its target from 15 percent to 10 percent in the second half of this year.

According to ASITA chairman for East Java Haryono Gondosoewito, his organization was forced to scale down its target in the second half of this year due to barriers hampering its business, including last week`s bombings of JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta, which killed nine people, including foreigners.

"As a result of the bombings last week we have to cancel our travel schedules from Malaysia and Singapore. The cancellation reduced our income by 15 to 20 percent," Gondosoewito said.

Gondowoewito said that the Singapore and Malaysian tourists were initially planning to visit East Java beginning this July to next August. Each of the group would consist of 25 visitors and will be staying in East Java for three to four days.

"We hope that this situation would recover soon, at least within three to six months ahead," he said. At the beginning he was optimistic that the ASITA business performance would grow 15 percent this year, similar to its achievement last year.

He said that he was initially optimistic to see the favorable condition this year. After all, presidential election which was held last July 8 proceeded peacefully.

"Unexpectedly however, bomb attacks happened at a time when businesses were trying to improve their performance after the 2008 economic crisis. As a result we are forced to revise down our target to 10 percent for the second half of the year," he said.

In the meantime, the Association of Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants (PHRI) has said hotels` occupancy rates has also dropped. Certain countries are reported to have advised their citizens to avoid staying at top hotels.

"We have to be aware of a fact which could create a small problem. Foreign chief executive officers are banned by their governments to go and stay at hotels, particularly hotels owned by United States companies," Gobel, chief commissioner of
PT Panasonic Gobel Indonesia, said.

He cited as an example where a Japanese director of PT Panasonic Gobel Indonesia refused to attend a meeting in a hotel in the Kuningan district because he was banned by his government to do so in a hotel.

Executive Director of PHRI, Carla Parengkuan said that room occupancy rates of star-rated hotels in Jakarta may decline 30 percent.

"I think the hotel room occupancy rates will drop 20 to 30 percent," Carla Parengkuan said at Belagio building in Mega Kuningan center in Jakarta.

She also said the twin bombing attacks at the two luxury hotels may prompt certain countries to issue a travel warning to their citizens to visit Indonesia, at least for some time to come, like what the Australian government had done.

"This would do a great deal of harm to Indonesia`s tourism industry," she added.
However, according to the Foreign Ministry, no foreign country has so far issued a travel warning on Indonesia following the bomb attacks on the two top hotels.

The ministry`s spokesman, Teuku Faizasyah, said on Friday a number of countries, such as the United States and Australia, had only issued a travel advisory, not a travel warning.

"So far, there has been no travel warnings but travel advisories from a number of countries such as the United States and Australia. It is a normal thing for a state to advise its citizens that they should be careful when they visit Indonesia," the foreign ministry spokesman said.

Indonesia's tourism feels the impact of Jakarta bombings
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