Bali counts the cost of Agung’s outburst

BALI'S ill-tempered volcano Gunung Agung threw the local aviation sector into chaos during November, but the full impact of the mountain's fury has only become clear more recently.

BALI’S ill-tempered volcano Gunung Agung threw the local aviation sector into chaos during November, but the full impact of the mountain’s fury has only become clear more recently.

Figures released last month by the Bali Government Tourism Office show the volcano resulted in a 20% decline in Australian tourism arrivals during November when compared to the same month in 2016, exacerbating a 10% decline recorded during the volcano’s initial rumblings in October.

Australian carriers Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia halted flights over several days during November as ash clouds threatened to impact Balinese airspace, while the island’s Ngurah Rai International Airport was closed completely for two days at the height of the eruption.

The number of Australians who arrived that month was limited to 73,795 as a result, while overall international arrivals during the month dropped 12.6% year-on-year to 361,006.

Flights have operated as scheduled since then, though exclusion zones around the still-active volcano have been maintained and the Balinese tourism industry may be counting the cost for some time to come.

In an effort to revive the sector, Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry has targeted flexible travellers and encouraged discounting among hoteliers.

At an industry briefing in Sydney in December, Ministry of Tourism spokesman William Kalua said accommodation providers in Bali had responded with “very steep discounts”.

“We see this as an opportunity for people flexible with dates — this could be your best deal of the year,” Kalua said.

He said those less concerned by potential flight disruptions would be targeted, such as retirees, students and people with extended leave.

The government also hoped to encourage discounted flights to package with hotel deals.

“The ministry is encouraging the airlines to sharpen their offering and create a better package,” Kalua said.

In the meantime, Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry is pushing ahead with longer-term plans to create “10 new Balis” as a means of dispersing tourism to other high-potential points in the archipelago.

Areas earmarked for additional marketing attention and the development of home-stay accommodation include Danau Toba, Tanjung Kelayang, Tanjung Lesung, Kota Tua Jakarta, Borobudur, Bromo Tengger Semeru, Labuan Bajo, Wakatobi, Mandalika and Morotai.

Seven of the 10 “new Balis” will share a common nautical theme, while others will have links with Indonesian culture.

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