Bali beckons again, following volcanic eruptions
China Daily/Asia News Network
The dust－more precisely, ash－has settled around Mount Agung.
And Indonesia's Bali Island is ready to greet Chinese visitors during the upcoming Spring Festival, following the volcanic peak's eruptions at the end of last year.
The area around Mount Agung experienced earthquakes and eruptions from September through December. Residents and tourists were forced to evacuate in November.
"In spite of Mount Agung's earlier eruptions, Bali Island's safety for travel is under control and we welcome Chinese tourists," Indonesian Tourism Minister Arief Yahya recently told a news conference in Beijing.
The consulate general of China in Denpasar announced in early January that Chinese travelers should carefully plan their itineraries and monitor the volcano's status and consulate notices. It advised against visiting dangerous locations near Mount Agung.
Indonesian authorities have been taking action to prepare for such events as new eruptions and promise to take precautions to ensure Chinese visitors' safety.
Bali's government has announced it's safe to visit, Chinese media platform New Lvjie reported recently. Only the area within 6 kilometers around Mount Agung is closed to the public.
Ngurah Rai International Airport was only closed for two and a half days at the end of November due to ash and has since operated normally, Bali's government says. Even if it's temporarily closed in the future, tourists can use other international airports in Surabaya or Banyuwangi.
The government promises to offer a free night of accommodation and transport to Surabaya or Banyuwangi if Ngurah Rai closes in the near future.
Mount Agung is still active but is about 70 kilometers from Ngurah Rai International Airport and the main tourism area, so it shouldn't affect normal travel, Yahya says.
Some Chinese tourists have been traveling to the island since the eruptions.
Yang Fan, director of Beijing-based bespoke online travel agency 6renyou.com's short-itinerary business, recently visited the island.
She noticed many five-star hotels provided updated information about the volcano in the lobby every day.
"Most airlines between Chinese cities and Bali have reopened since January, and Chinese travel agencies have started to send travel groups to Bali," Yang says.
"However, it will take time for Bali's tourism to return to normal."
Few group travelers visit Mount Agung because it's far from the main tourism area.
"Those who want to enjoy magnificent volcano views can visit other volcanoes on the island, such as Mount Batur," she says.
Many of 6renyou.com's customers are middle-class families who prefer to stay in five-star hotels and visit such sites as Bali Safari and Marine Park, and Waterbom Park. They also enjoy snorkeling, buying local folk arts and appreciating such experiences as learning how to cook local food.
About 2 million Chinese visited Indonesia last year, accounting for about 15 percent of inbound tourists, Xinhua News Agency reports. Nearly 1.4 million Chinese visited Bali in 2017, accounting for the biggest inbound group.
Chinese visitors especially enjoy Indonesia's coastlines, islands, beaches and diving, Yahya says.
The country is planning to train more Chinese-speaking guides and open a tourism-information center that offers Chinese-language services.
Indonesia's tourism ministry is also developing 10 priority destinations including Toba Lake and Tanjung Lesung Peninsula, through its "New Bali" plan.
It's constructing such infrastructure as roads and airports to place these destinations higher on visitors' itineraries. New direct flights will open to these emerging attractions.
Jakarta and Palembang will host the 18th Asian Games from Aug 18 to Sept 2. Indonesia views this as an opportunity to attract Chinese sports enthusiasts and for them to travel around the country.
"It's convenient for Chinese to fly to Jakarta to witness the excellent performances of Chinese athletes," Yahya says.
"They can also enjoy picturesque views and the cultural heritage of Indonesia."
Tourism authorities have developed travel packages from Jakarta and Palembang to other destinations in anticipation on the visitor influx, he adds.
It seems likely many Chinese will be visiting Bali then－and before and after.
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