Bali tourism industry on high alert


Authorities in Bali raised the province’s security alert to its highest level in response to the bombings on Friday morning at the JW Marriott Hotel and Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Jakarta that left at least nine people dead.

Police Chief Insp. Gen. Teuku Asikin Husein said the police had tightened security on the resort island.

“Bali remains an attractive potential target for terrorists,” he said. “One of the characteristics of terrorists is [their love of] publicity. If anything happens in Bali, it will quickly become international [news].”

Terrorists first struck Bali, the country’s top tourist destination, in October 2002, when three bombs ripped through a popular nightclub in Kuta, killing 202 people, including 152 foreign nationals.

Several members of regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah were convicted in relation to the incident, including three individuals who were executed by a firing squad in November.

Asikin said police officers in Bali have been ordered to step up security at hotels across the island, particularly in major population centers such as Kuta, Jimbaran, Nusa Dua, Sanur and Seminyak.

In addition, officers from the elite Mobile Brigade (Brimob) and the Densus 88 antiterror squad are closely monitoring all entry points to Bali, including Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar and the ports at Gilimanuk and Padangbai.

Despite the heightened security threat, leaders of Bali’s tourism sector remained upbeat on Friday, saying that the attacks in Jakarta would have a limited impact on the island’s tourism industry.

“The last Marriott bombing did not have a serious impact on tourism in Bali,” said Bali Hotel Association executive director Djinaldi Gosana, referring to an August 2003 car-bomb attack at the Jakarta hotel, which left 12 people dead, including a Dutch businessman and two Chinese tourists.

Djinaldi said that current hotel-occupancy rates in Bali remain in the 80 percent to 90 percent range. During the campaign periods leading up to both the legislative and presidential elections, domestic and international tourist arrivals actually increased by 13 percent from last year, he said.

Police in East Java, meanwhile, also started stepping up security. East Java Police Chief Insp. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam ordered all districts and municipal police chiefs in the province to conduct security sweeps in locations deemed vulnerable to attacks.

“These operations will mainly focus on major hotels,” Anton said after attending Friday prayers. “Everyone is conducting these sweeps now.”

The police in East Java have also been ordered to conduct raids if necessary. “These raids will focus on looking for explosives or possible terrorism suspects,” he said.

The East Java Police are also deploying more officers to protect strategic location throughout the province in response to Friday’s attacks in Jakarta, he said.

“We’re beefing up our personnel from an initial level of two-thirds of the total force,” Anton said, without revealing further detail. “We are increasing the numbers.”

He declined to comment on any measures police were taking in Lamongan, the home district of two of the three men executed for their roles in the 2002 Bali attacks.

“We are monitoring everything,” he said, although he would not elaborate.