Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Despite Mount Agung being active, it has not yet erupted, but news reports on it have deterred several foreign tourists.
Tourism industry is the backbone of Balis economy. Bali has set a target to attract 5.5 million foreign tourists this year.
The number of foreign tourist arrivals in Bali from January to August 2017 had reached 3.99 million, an increase of 25 percent as compared to that recorded during the same period last year.
However, lately, hotels in Bali have reported several cancellations of room reservations due to the increased volcanic activity of Mount Agung.
In response to news reports, Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika has convinced tourists to visit the resort island without hesitation, adding that it remains safe and conducive despite the increased activity of Mount Agung, which is located in Karangasem District, Bali Island.
The governor made assurance during a meeting with tourism stakeholders, such as travel operators, in Denpasar, Bali, on Oct 3.
If Mount Agung erupts, it will have a direct impact on only 28 villages located within a radius of 12 kilometers from the volcanos crater.
Balis main tourist attractions, such as Nusa Dua, Kuta, and Sanur, are situated tens of kilometers from the location of the mount, he added.
He said Karangasem has 78 villages, of which only 28 villages could be directly affected. The remaining 50 villages and other tourist destinations in Bali will remain safe.
"Therefore, do not hesitate to visit Bali, except for climbing the mount, which will be forbidden as it is dangerous," Pastika explained.
Besides, the current condition is different from how it erupted in 1963.
Indonesia now has better disaster mitigation measures and more sophisticated information technology that could minimize the number of casualties and damages in case of eruption, he asserted.
"Therefore, I would like to reaffirm that Bali would be safe and there is nothing to be worried about. All arrangements have been already made in case of an eruption," he reiterated.
The government has planned to hold a meeting with foreign consuls in Bali in order to eradicate misinformation and disinformation or hoax regarding the current situation.
Another assurance was given by Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, who told the international public that Bali remains safe for visits, despite the alert states of active Mount Agung.
"Bali remains safe for touristic visits by both domestic and foreign visitors. We have taken various anticipatory measures and are well prepared in case of an eruption," he said on Oct 5.
He stated that only very few areas would be affected by the volcanos increased activities, while a large number of tourist destinations in Bali would be safe.
Besides, the Indonesian Government has been experienced in handling eruptions of volcanoes. If Mount Agung erupts, then the government would apply similar measures it did when Mount Raung in Banyuwangi, East Java, erupted.
In the case of Mount Agung, the government has prepared three options concerning accessibility, accommodation, and attractions for tourists.
In case Balis Ngurah Rai International Airport has to be closed due to volcanic asses, the Transportation Ministry has prepared alternative airports in East Java and Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara) and a lot of buses to transport passengers to those airports.
"The accessibility for domestic and foreign tourists has been anticipated in case of the worst," he remarked.
Some 300 buses would take passengers to Praya International Airport in West Nusa Tenggara or to Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java.
Various options have also been prepared for tourists unable to leave their hotels or surrounding areas.
Deputy District Head of Karangasem I Wayan Artha Dipa has said that Besakih and Tulamben are among tourist attractions in the district that being closed to the public due to increased activities of Mount Agung.
However, Karangasem District, where Mount Agung is located, still has many tourist attractions located quite far from the volcano, which would remain open to the public.
The tourism ministry did not deny a report that the number of foreign tourists has dropped by 100 thousand people, of 20 percent of the total 500 thousand foreign visitors per month.
Meanwhile, the Association of Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants (PHRI) has predicted that some 70 thousand foreigners would postpone visits to the resort island during the October-November period due to intensified activities of Mount Agung.
"We have collected data on guests who had planned to come for meetings and others. There would be a decrease in the tourist arrival by 20 percent, or some 70 thousand," Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, chairman of the associations Bali chapter, stated on Oct 3.
The data were collected from several hotels in Bali and not all hotels, he noted, adding that most of the postponements came from tourists of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) category.
He explained that the alert status of Mount Agung was directed to people living within a radius of 12 kilometers from the volcanos crater, while tourist destinations beyond the radius were considered safe.
October is usually the peak season for tourism industry in Bali. The hotel occupancy rate is 65 percent at the average in Nusa Dua area, Badung District. Mount Agung is located in Karangasem district.
No country has issued a travel warning so far. However, a travel advisory has been released by the United States, Australia, Britain, Singapore, and New Zealand.
Records since 1800 reveal that Mount Agung had experienced four mega eruptions respectively in 1908, 1823, 1843, and 1963. More than one thousand people had died when Mount Agung last erupted in 1963.Mount Agung has been rumbling since August, with an increase in the magnitude of tremors, though the volcano has not erupted so far.
The volcano is located on the resort island of Bali, but it is quite far from the islands main tourist destinations, such as Kuta Beach, which is some 75 kilometers away.
Several key Balinese destinations, such as Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, Lake Beratan Bedugul, Tampak Siring Palace, Bali Safari and Marine Park, Garuda Wisnu Kencana, Sanur and Kuta beaches, Tanjung Benoa, Goa Gajah, and Nusa Penida, are quite far from the volcano and not affected by the increase in volcanic activity at Mount Agung.
Source: Antara News