Though they are on the other side of the world from Bali, U.S.
travel agents and tour operators who specialize in the Indonesian
destination are feeling the fallout from the island’s Oct. 12
Like other retailers with clients in Bali at the time of the
deadly nightclub bombing, Diane Embree, an agent at Michael’s
Travel Centre in Westlake Village, Calif., spent the better part of
that first weekend hastily making departure arrangements for her
clients, none of whom were injured in the blasts.
Since then, she’s been working nonstop to reaccommodate her
Bali-bound clients already in Asia. They include a group of 50 who
were headed to the island from Singapore at the time of the attack.
Embree arranged for the group to stay on in Singapore instead. She
did the same for a couple headed to Bali from Thailand. Ironically,
the attack comes at a time when her Bali business has been
“This year has been very good until this point,” said Embree,
who launched the agency’s Bali Barong Tours division several years
ago. “I have people there almost every day.”
As for clients set to travel to Bali in the next few months, she
is alerting them to a newly issued State Department warning against
travel to Indonesia, but she stressed that the decision to travel
is entirely theirs.
“We have a lot of reservations on the books well into next year,
but it remains to be seen what will happen,” Embree said. “They’re
taking a wait-and-see approach.”
Stephen Abelsohn of Rogue Travel in Ashland, Ore., had one
client change plans from Bali to Thailand soon after the attack,
but four other Bali bookings remain in place through the end of the
Two other bookings one just for Bali and a circle-the-Pacific
itinerary that includes Bali remained up in the air at press time.
Abelsohn said he understands his clients’ concerns, but he added
that he wouldn’t avoid Bali himself, given what’s happened.
“Bali has been a very safe place, traditionally,” he said. “The
people who live there are Hindus, not Muslims, and I don’t say that
judgmentally. With the Iraq situation and the Muslim
fundamentalists [in Indonesia], people must make up their own
minds. Personally, if I was traveling, I’d get on the plane.”
The Bali attack did, however, lead Abelsohn to cancel a 13-day
group tour to Bali in November a trip that had already suffered
from sluggish demand.
A Financial Silver Lining?
Rusty Staff, president of Asia Transpacific Journeys, noted
that, within days of the blasts, two of his company’s six upcoming
Bali bookings canceled, with the operator’s travel insurance
covering their costs. At the same time, two other parties spoke
with the company and quickly reaffirmed their desire to travel to
From a business standpoint, Staff said, the attack’s timing at
the tail end of Bali’s high season could minimize the effect the
blasts have on Bali’s tourism industry, which he has been told
employs roughly two-thirds of the Balinese people. But apart from
the obvious financial toll the attack is taking on the local
economy and on his own bottom line, Staff said the bombing affected
him on a personal level, as well.
“Bali has always been my personal refuge,” said Staff, who had
been to the nightclub that was attacked. “I go there a couple of
times a year just to revisit it and develop new programs. I’m just
sad and shocked.”
Fenina Mundisugih, president of Natrabu Indo-American Travel,
received several cancellations on the Monday after the bombing, he
offered full refunds minus a $100 cancellation fee per booking.
Half of his company’s bookings mostly honeymooners and other FITs
are for Thailand and other parts of Indochina, and he said his
company will shift its focus to Thailand for the fall as things
settle down in Bali.
Pannir Murugesu, president of San Francisco-based Scenic World
Inc., said the cancellations he received on the first workday
following the attack included three honeymoon bookings. But he was
amazed when several group bookings called to say they still plan to
go to Bali.
“That kind of surprised me,” Murugesu said. “I expected up to
A group of 50 out of Salt Lake City still plans to leave for
Bali Oct. 31, he noted. And a San Francisco Police Department group
told him it is taking a wait-and-see approach rather than canceling
its Easter 2003 trip outright.
More than 50% of Scenic World’s business comes from Bali, and
Murugesu said he hopes the lack of across-the-board cancellations
bodes well for the destination and his business.
“That gives me hope that, in a month or so, we should get Bali
off the front page,” he said. “I think we could slowly get people
back to Bali. But the deals will have to be spectacular.”
Meanwhile, cruise lines are routing their ships away from Bali.
Princess Cruises replaced its calls in Bali and Semarang, Java, on
the Nov. 26 sailing of the Regal Princess with Kuala Lumpur and
Holland America Line is rerouting the Volendam on Oct. 28,
adding a sea day and a port call in Broome, Australia, on Oct. 29.
HAL’s Prinsendam will call in Kuala Lumpur on Nov. 5 and 6 instead
of Surabaya and Lombok, Indonesia, then sail to Broome.
PATA: ONE SHOW WILL GO ON
Citing upgraded travel advisories imposed on Indonesia by
Australia, Germany, Great Britain and the United States, The
Pacific Asia Travel Association cancelled the 1st PATA Sustainable
Tourism Conference, set for Oct. 23-26 in Banten, Western Java,
A significant number of the conference’s 90 registered
international delegates cancelled shortly after the attack, PATA
Though it cancelled the sustainable tourism confab, PATA still
plans to hold the 52nd PATA Annual Conference, set for April 13-17
on Bali, said PATA President and CEO Peter de Jong.
PATA also is working with the International Air Transport
Association and other partner organizations to set up a task force
to help the country handle the crisis faced by Indonesia’s tourism