Less than 24 hours after the tragic bombing of 3 Bali restaurants on October 1, 2005, Peter Semone the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Vice-Chairman for Development was on hand in Bali, lending his association's aide and support to Bali's tourism sector. Peter paused in his busy schedule to share his observations on how he thinks Bali will cope as the latest victim in the world-wide war on terror with balidiscovery.com.
Peter Semone of PATA Ė The Interview
balidiscovery.com: The current question in the mind of many Balinese is what effect the latest bombing will have on future arrivals. Peter, in your opinion, will bookings take a nose dive in the next few months, or will there only be a slight dip in tourist numbers?
Semone: The situation is less frantic compared to 2002. Perhaps people have become slightly de-sensitized. It is as if this is the new normal. Terrorist groups know no boundaries. To say that Bali is now more dangerous than other places is not necessarily true. We don't know what will happen tomorrow. People can be targets of terrorism anywhere. So in that sense, I think that tourism will take less of a nose dive than it did in the aftermath of the 2002 incident. Look at destinations impacted by the 2003 SARS out break. They are now back at pre-crisis levels, or better. Many of the destinations damaged by the tsunami have reasonably strong forward bookings for the coming November-March high season period. Tourism destinations and tourists are becoming more resilient to crisis, which means much faster rebounds.
balidiscovery.com: What would you advise the Indonesian and Balinese tourism industry to do to facilitate recovery?
Semone:You will remember that in the aftermath of the 2002 bombings, PATA deployed a Task Force to provide recommendations on recovery. I think that many of the findings of that report remain valid today. Cooperation between the public and private sectors; between the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Bali Tourism Industry. A re-look at Bali's destination branding. And close monitoring and support of the aviation sector: after all, Bali is an island that relies heavily on continued service by air carriers. As soon as I return to Bangkok, we will be sure and post the PATA Bali Recovery Task Force on our website. (See Link.)
balidiscovery.com: How can the people everywhere help Bali recover?
Semone: Travel intermediaries and tourists are now in a position to decide Bali's fate. Travel agents should ensure that they are well informed before advising their clients on whether or not to travel to Bali. As much as it would be wrong to advise someone to travel somewhere if there is credible danger, it is equally wrong to discourage someone from traveling to a destination without facts. However, in the end, it'll be the consumer that will determine if and for how long Baliís tourism industry will suffer. It's during times like this that anyone that does have a familiarity with Bali and its people should plan on traveling to Bali. The more evidence that tourists are enjoying their holidays in Bali, the sooner the perception of danger will fade.
balidiscovery.com: Do you see any impact of Bali Bombings of October 1, 2005, on the rest of Southeast Asia?
Semone: Obviously, these sort of events remind everyone just how fragile and vulnerable the travel and tourism industry are. We're really a soft target and it's not always easy to harden our infrastructure against terrorism. It's very difficult to balance increased security and at the same time maintain the relaxed atmosphere that a holiday destination like Bali is famous for. Based on the assumption that nothing else happens in the coming days, weeks and month, I don't see this event having much impact on Southeast Asian tourism.
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