Within hours of the deadly blasts at two hotels in Jakarta, the Australian foreign ministry had issued a new travel warning against Indonesia. But people in the travel business, while deploring the crime, say travel warnings do not help the country to cope. They say Indonesia has made huge strides in security in recent years and remains an appealing destination.
“This is a horrible crime,” said Jamie James, a partner in the Warung Bonita tourist restaurant and travel company in Seminyak, Bali. “Whoever did this is trying to turn back the clock,” he said, referring to the bombs which hit Bali – and tourism – seven years ago. “All the history creates an impression that this is all that’s going on here – but things have been getting better here in recent years,” he said.
Upsetting to many Indonesians is the image now spread around the world of a country in turmoil – when it has just come peacefully through a second democratic election and has been maintaining economic growth despite the world downturn.
“It is bound to be misinterpreted – this is much more like the Oklahoma City bombing than the events of 9/11,” said Mr. James, an American. Asked if he would advise friends or relatives to still visit the country, he said “of course.”
“If my aunt wanted to come to Bali, I would tell her to come. If she wanted to come to Jakarta, I would tell her to come,” he added.
Several people in Jakarta and Bali expressed annoyance at the new travel warnings. They say the country was only just recovering from the last Australian travel warning, which was kept in place for many years longer than any other country’s. Such warnings immediately hurt businesses and can put thousands of Indonesians employed in the tourism sector out of work, they said.
“We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Indonesia due to the very high threat of terrorist attack,” the Australian Foreign Ministry said on its website. Australia has shown a higher sensitivity to terror threats because so many of the 202 people killed in the Bali bombs of 2002 were Australian.
New Zealand has urged its citizens in Indonesia to keep a low profile. Britain also updated its travel warning, though it did not raise its alert level.
Bali police said they have increased security measures at entry points to the resort island following the deadly explosions in Jakarta.
Inspector General T Ashikin Husein, Bali’s police chief, told a news conference that his office has yet to find any indication of security threats and that the island was still secure.
A wide range of analysts have told reporters the bombs will strike a short-term blow to Indonesia’s confidence. But they said that the fundamentals of Indonesia’s economic and political landscape were too strong now for the country to sustain long-term damage.
Indonesia has made rapid progress in containing the threat from militant groups and has increased security and surveillance in recent years.