Ni Komang Erviani, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika predicted the Australian government’s recent issuance of an advisory against traveling to Indonesia would not affect Bali’s tourism industry.
The travel advisory was announced in anticipation of the execution of the three convicted Bali bombers — Amrozi, Mukhlas, alias Ali Gufron, and Imam Samudra — which has been scheduled to take place at the high-security prison on Nusakambangan Island in Cilacap regency, Central Java, in November.
Pastika said Australians knew the island well and have developed a close relationship with the Balinese.
“I think the Australians understand conditions in Bali,” he said on the sidelines of the commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the Youth Pledge in Puputan Margarana square in Renon, Denpasar, on Tuesday.
He said his administration could not protest the Australian’s travel advisory because such advisories came out of internal policies in every country. However, he stressed security would be a top priority in Bali.
“We can’t do anything about the travel advisory because that’s an internal issue. We don’t need to worry too much, though.”
We and our defense force will do our best to safeguard Bali.”
Separately, the chair of the Bali Tourism Board (BTB), Ngurah Wijaya, said he was optimistic island tourism would remain strong despite the travel advisory.
He said Australian tourists tended to ignore their government’s advisory against traveling to Bali.
“The proof lies in the fact that the number of Australian tourists this year is still high despite this year’s earlier advisory,” he said.
Based on data from the BTB, the neighboring country ranked second in the number of visiting foreign tourists to Bali.
The data showed the total number of Australian tourists in Bali last year reached 124,397 people, 11.55 percent of all foreign tourists in Bali. The figure jumped by 56,04 percent to 194,115 visitors this year after only 9 months in 2008.
The travel advisory, Wijaya said, was very understandable.
“It’s the Australian government’s right. A country has the responsibility to protect its citizens.”
In the near future, the number of Australian tourists is expected to decline slightly due to the global financial crises and the weakening of the Australian dollar against the greenback.
“The weakening currency, on the other hand, could actually be an advantage because Bali is a closer tourist destination for Australia compared to our tough competitors Thailand and Europe,” Wijaya said.
With a plan in place by several airlines to add 3,500 seats weekly on direct flights from Australia to Bali, he said opportunities to boost tourism were continuing to make their mark.