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Tourism Down in Bali After Bombings

  • Patsy Widakuswara
  • Amy Katz

The Indonesian island of Bali had just recovered from the 2002 nightclub bombings, hosting a record number of tourists in 2004, when terrorists struck there again in October, bombing two cafes. Patsy Widakuswara recently visited the island. In this report, narrated by Amy Katz, she says Bali, which relies on tourism as its main industry, is again suffering.

There are not many tourists in the usually vibrant Kuta section of Bali's capital, Denpasar, in the wake of the bombings of two cafes there in October. A few visitors are still determined not to let the threat of terrorism spoil their vacation plans.

"We felt that it was still relatively safe to come here, and it is a great spot to come on holiday,” said one tourist.

"You just take your chance anywhere really," said another.

The Bali government tourism office says the number of visitors dropped following the October bombings. Normally, 5,000 to 6,000 tourists visit the island each day. Now it is only about 2,000. It is a big blow for a community that relies heavily on tourism. Bali was just recovering from the 2002 bombings, with a record-breaking number of tourists in 2004.

The tourism industry in Bali is making every effort to ensure safety. Security checks and extra officers are now standard operating procedure at malls and hotels.

Dewi Karmawan is the Manager of Marketing Communications at the Hard Rock Hotel, one of the largest American hotels in Bali. She says the property has three canine units and 48 security officers. "And also we do bag check, also body check, also under carriage metal detectors,” she told us.

Leaders in the tourism industry are angered by acts of terror. Bagus Sudibya, head of the Bali tourism board, says they are committed to fight them.

"We should not let [it] even happen once again in our country, this type of terrorism, because we know exactly how difficult and how dangerous it is towards the future of our society."

The Bali government says it faces another obstacle -- travel warnings and bans being imposed by countries, like the U.S. and Australia. Gede Nurjaya, the head of Bali's office of tourism, is urging those governments to send people in to evaluate the situation there -- before issuing travel bans.

The travel warnings and bans make potential visitors wary, especially because insurance agencies will not cover tourists who travel to countries under travel bans.

The two bomb attacks targeting Bali's tourists have forced the Balinese government to consider other ways to employ people -- such as agri-business. But so far there is no real plan of action, and no real alternative for the tens of thousands of Balinese people who rely on tourists for their livelihood.

Ni Made offers massages on the beach to tourists. "I only hope for peace,” she says. “I'm worried about a third bomb, if it happens, I don't think Bali will survive."

Many others share her concern. In this devout Hindu province of Indonesia, the people's daily prayers are for peace and safety.

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