While the number of tourists visiting Bali from Europe and the United States might drop, tourists from the Asia-Pacific countries will increase, a noted tourism association has predicted.

The Bali chapter of the Association of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA) predicted that tourists from European countries and the US may drop by 40 percent this year compared to last year. “Tourists from Europe and the US will be those worse hit by the global financial crisis. Furthermore, the flights from Europe and the US (to Bali) are the most expensive,” ASITA Bali chapter chairman Aloysius Purwa said in Denpasar on Saturday.

In 2008, the number of tourists from the United States reached an average of 5,000 per month, while tourists from European countries reached an average of 40,000.

However, he noted that the financial crisis could persuade tourists from the Asia-Pacific countries to change their holiday destinations from crisis-hit countries to Bali. He predicted a 10 percent increase in the number of tourists coming from countries such as Japan, Taiwan, China and Malaysia.

He said the upcoming 2009 election may bring more domestic tourists to Bali, citing a traditional upsurge in domestic travel during the campaign season.

“This is usually caused by parties campaigning around the country accompanied by their supporters,” Purwa said.

course this could mean that they may travel to holiday spots during their stopovers. They are tourists too, in a sense.”

According to data from the Bali Tourism Agency, the number of tourists coming to Bali reached 1.9 million last year. Japanese tourists remain in the top spot as the largest contributor to the island’s tourism industry, with Australia coming in second and Taiwan third.

The tourism agency has cut its target of tourists from 2.1 million to 1.8 million this year, citing the financial crisis as its main reason.

“We have aimed for 2.1 million based on data from the past five years, but have decided to reduce that target to a more realistic 1.8 million due to the global financial crisis,” Bali Tourism Agency Chief Gede Nurjaya said.

Meanwhile, Bali Tourism Board Chief Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya was optimistic that the predicted increase in the number of Asian tourists could help the island exceed its target of 1.8 million tourists this year.

“I am very optimistic that we can exceed the government’s target, because aside from getting a lot of cancellations, we have also been getting a lot of reservations,” he said.