On Wednesday, January 15, 2004 new travel warning were issued by Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom addressing a heightened threat level for a terror attack in Indoneisa.
[See:The Imminent Terror of the Unknown]
balidiscovery.com interviewed the General Manager of the Bali Hilton, Mr. Ian E. McKie, two days after the new warnings were issued.
balidiscovery.com: When were you first made aware of the terrorist alert?
Ian McKie: The first contact we had was from the US Embassy in Jakarta at about 2.00 p.m. on Wednesday December 15th. We subsequently received a call from the Australian Consul here in Bali about 2 hours later.
balidiscovery.com: What was the nature of the information you received?
Ian McKie: We were informed of possible terrorist activity in Indonesia targeting western interests. Likely targets were Western Hotels and Hilton hotels were mentioned as potential targets.
balidiscovery.com: Was Bali Hilton mentioned specifically?
Ian McKie: No. The information was not that specific. It simply referred to Hilton Hotels in Indonesia.
balidiscovery.com: How did you react to this information?
Ian McKie: We immediately raised the level of security awareness in our property. We contacted the local police and have received immediate and proportionate support from them in terms of manpower and logistics. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the Bali bombing, most hotels in Bali have put in place efficient security systems and procedures. Bali Hilton is no exception. Hotels in Bali are now audited and rated by the local police authorities. Our property has received the highest rating.
balidiscovery.com: How do you feel about the issuing of travel advisories in cases like this? Angry?
Ian McKie: No not angry, but slightly frustrated, perhaps. We recognize the responsibility of Governments to protect their citizens and advise them accordingly. The problem is that we don't know the exact nature of the intelligence so we do not know if the reaction to it is reasonable or exaggerated. Furthermore, Travel Advisories are issued nowadays with such frequency that "advisory fatigue" is very much in play as far as customers are concerned. Also as Alistair Downer pointed out, once the terrorists intentions are know they are more than capable of changing their plans, so while Hiltons have been specifically mentioned the threat is not limited to us alone.
balidiscovery.com: What is the mood like in the hotel?
Ian McKie: Pretty calm, to be honest. Guests are going about enjoying their holidays normally. Of course when we receive information like this we must take it seriously and react accordingly, but equally we have a responsibility to keep going and provide our guests with a proper holiday experience. One or two guests have approached us asking for more information and clarification but nobody is running for the airport.
balidiscovery.com: Have you experinced many cancellations in the two days since the warning was issued?
Ian McKie: Altogether we've had something approaching 30 cancelled bookings originating from a number of markets. We still expect to be running respectable occupancy numbers over the Christmas period and to be near-fully booked over New Years. I dare say, guests staying with us during the coming few weeks can expect to experience a special cameraderie with our staff members in appreciation for such demonstrable loyalty.
balidiscovery.com:There have been some criticisms in the media, particularly in Australia, that hotels are not informing their guests of the situation. How do you react to this?
Ian McKie: I believe that the hotels should be guided by the Embassies on this matter. If a particular Embassy wants us to pass on information or advise its citizens, then we will certainly do so. However, I do not believe we should be telling our Japanese guests, for example, that Australia has issued a travel advisory. If the Japanese Government issues an advisory then we should certainly inform their citizens of the fact.
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