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14 Oct, 2002

Bali Bombing Leaves Industry in Shock

The Pacific Asia travel and tourism industry was in a state of shock yesterday as it sought to contemplate the wide-ranging impact of the devastating bomb blasts in Bali over the weekend.

“There is no such thing as a ‘safe place’ in the travel and tourism industry any more,” said Mr Alwin Zecha, managing director of the Pacific Leisure group, as cancellations poured in and hundreds of tourists began to exit what has long been considered a peaceful, tranquil “Island of the Gods.”

Indonesia received 5,153,620 arrivals in 2001, a slight increase over 5,064,416 arrivals in 2000. Of the 2001 total, 1,422,714 arrivals went to Bali as the first point of entry. Arrivals in the first half of 2002 totalled 2,058,809.

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) was the first to respond. Its senior management executives and a number of board members, including Mr Zecha, had been having dinner at a restaurant just a few hundred metres away when the blast occurred. The association’s Vice President for Development, Mr Peter Semone, had married a Balinese girl just hours earlier.

PATA President and CEO Mr. Peter de Jong, said: “To strike at innocent civilians, many of them young people, is a barbaric act of cowardice which defies the morality of all civilised people. Our condolences go out to the families and friends of the dead and injured – and to the peace-loving people of Bali and Indonesia who, like us, are in deep shock today.”

PATA has two upcoming events in Indonesia, a sustainable Tourism Conference to be held in Banten, Western Java, between October 23-26 and the 52nd Annual Conference in Bali between April 13-17, 2003. As of today, both events will remain in place, Mr de Jong said.

He said that PATA, in coordination with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and other partner organisations, was ready to set up a Crisis Task Force to help the country address the major challenges which its tourism industry was likely to face in the weeks and months ahead.

Mr. Semone, meanwhile, has stayed on in Bali to help Indonesian tourism authorities.

A Tourism Authority of Thailand spokesperson declined specific comment on whether the incident would lead to any spillover business for Thailand.

She said, “The attack in Bali should not be looked at from the perspective of whether it is good or bad for the Thai tourism industry. It is a horrendous, despicable attack that is bad for the tourism industry worldwide. It will exacerbate the current downturn the global industry is already experiencing.”

Conveying the TAT’s sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims, the spokesperson said, “Indonesia is a friend and colleague under the ASEAN tourism fraternity. In the spirit of ASEAN, the TAT is ready and willing to work with the Indonesian tourism authorities to see what we can do to help revive tourism to that country.”

Mr Tom Racette, regional director of communications for Accor Asia-Pacific, which has 26 properties in Indonesia, including two in Bali, said the attack was a further blow to the island which had enjoyed a one-year recovery following the October 2001 riots in Lombok and the ‘sweeping’ of foreigners in Solo.

“For the short term, we are expecting there will be cancellations as the Australian market is key to Bali. However, in the term, we believe strongly in Indonesia because we are the largest management group there.”

Mr Zecha said he thought the blast would put “a real dampener” on the travel and tourism worldwide. He said, “Let’s just pray and hope that nothing happens in Thailand.”

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