Subject: Age: Crisis triggers dramatic slump in Aussie tourism to Indonesia

The Age [Melbourne] Thursday 7 October 1999

Australians spurn Bali as Timor crisis raises fears for safety


The East Timor crisis has triggered a dramatic slump in Australian tourism to Bali and other parts of Indonesia, according to tourism operators.

Australian tourist numbers are reported to be down by 50 per cent or more in some parts of Bali, despite the resort island's apparent insulation from anti-Australian sentiment that has erupted elsewhere in Indonesia.

In the latest incident, on the neighboring island of Lombok, youths and students burnt an Australian flag and demanded that all Australian tourists be expelled.

A spokesman for the adventure travel company Intrepid, Mr Damian Parry, said yesterday that Australians once formed half of all tourists in Indonesia, but that figure was now 10 per cent.

Mr Greg Hinchcliffe, who owns the two Poco Loco restaurants on Bali, estimated that fewer than half the usual number of Australians were visiting. He expected the October figures to be worse as September included visitors who could not cancel their bookings.

But Mr Hinchcliffe said there had been no anti-Australian feeling in Bali. He said the Balinese people sympathised with the East Timorese and had held charity collections for them.

Another Australian involved in Balinese tourism, who declined to be named, said air traffic to Bali had dried up, with one Garuda jet carrying only six passengers. "Planes are sort of nearly empty coming in," he said. A Qantas jet in which he had travelled had only 46 passengers.

He estimated there were 50 per cent fewer tourists in Bali than usual for this time of year.

The mostly Hindu Balinese, who don't consider themselves Indonesians, were friendly to Australians, unlike Indonesians elsewhere, he said.

A spokeswoman for Garuda said she was unable to provide travel figures. She said tourists were still flying to Bali and Indonesia despite a lot of groups, such as schools, cancelling.

A spokeswoman for Qantas said the airline was still running the normal number of flights to Bali, but would not provide travel figures.

Anti-Australian sentiment has been on the rise since Canberra's sharply critical stance on Indonesia's handling of the violence in East Timor and the Australian pressure for international peacekeepers.

Meanwhile, Australian and local Indonesian authorities played down the seriousness of yesterday's demonstration on Lombok.

The Bali-based Australian consul, Mr Ross Tysoe, said there was no need for Australian tourists to cancel plans to visit Lombok.

"I don't want to read too much into this as there were only about 50 people involved in the demonstration," he said.

The demonstration appears to be the first aimed at tourists.

Demonstrations have been held almost daily outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta and protests have forced the closure of Australian consulates in other towns.

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