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NEWS UPDATES 18 July 2009

Bali tourism threatened by Jakarta bombings 

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Deadly bombings in Indonesia's capital have rattled tourism operators on the holiday island of Bali, which is still recovering from bloody terror attacks from seven years ago, reported AFP.

The bombings that killed at least nine people at the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels in Jakarta on Friday carry strong echoes in Bali, where over 200 people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed in 2002 and 2005 attacks.

Those bombings by the radical Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network sent tourism in Bali and Indonesia plunging, but years of stability have seen a rebound in foreign arrivals.

"Up to now we've been feeling safe, but we shouldn't doze off on this situation," 38-year-old tour guide Dedey Umbara said at Bali's famous Kuta beach. "If Bali bombing number three happens, Bali is finished, we're finished."

Visitors however showed little concern over the Jakarta attacks. Scantily dressed tourists strolled past a memorial to the victims of the 2002 bombings, apparently unaware that the threat of terror had returned to the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

"We're travelling with six family members here and yeah, I feel safe," said Noel Howard, a 39-year-old Australian tourist in shorts and flip-flops. Over 870,000 foreign tourists visited the beach-lined Hindu-majority island in the first five months of this year, a nearly 10-percent rise from the same period a year before, according to official figures.

But with new bombings in the national capital targeting hotels popular with Westerners, a drop in foreign tourist arrivals is inevitable, Indonesia Tour and Travel Association head Ben Sukma told AFP.

"In fact we can say yes, there will be an effect. How big we don't know," he said. Indonesian travel agents were yet to hear from their foreign counterparts how many cancellations there had been, but the vast distance between Jakarta and Bali meant tourists were less likely to panic, Sukma said.

"Last time everybody was leaving Indonesia at the same time. You could see it at the airport. Now if you look at the airport you can't see anybody (leaving)," he said. Bali police said they have put the island on alert and were keeping a close watch on ports and Ngurah Rai International Airport.

Hotel managers say Bali's tourism authority has urged tighter security at hotels, many of which routinely conduct checks on entering vehicles. A drop in tourism would be a serious blow for the people of the island, which gets the lion's share of tourists to Indonesia and whose economy depends on foreign visitors.

The discovery of Indonesia's first swine flu cases from travellers coming through Bali's airport has already caused concern among local tourism operators. But 71-year-old Australian visitor Helen Wilkinson said the bombings in Jakarta were a distant concern.

"I've been to Bali only twice. The first time was in 2002 just before the first bombing and the second is right now and I don't feel any different," she said. "What you don't know doesn't ever hurt you."



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