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(4/19/2003) Bali Update #342's breaking news coverage on Visa-Free Facility Revoked generated a record number of visitors to www.balidiscovery.com and an impressive number of readers' comments.
Here's a brief sampling of what people had to say:
• Nick Blance of www.surfheearth.com.au wrote:
"As a travel agent in Australia that caters for surfers coming to Bali and Indonesia I see this as a major problem. A lot of my clients want 60 days - that is now finished! What about a family of 4 - it's an extra $336 AUD to enter the country plus Garuda have a new fuel surcharge of $10US per sector. Another $80US. No thanks - the Pacific islands will benefit from this."
• Another Travel Agent, Mark Rowe, of Harvey World Travel in Geraldton, Western Australia said:
"This A$100.00 visa fee each, now puts you in the same price bracket as Kota Kinabalu. I know where I'll be recommending my customers to go now."
• A reader from Toronto, Canada, Olivia, added:
" Hi! I have enjoyed reading your updates on Bali, a long-time favourite holiday destination. . . And now, the Jakarta government-- with all the problems that need more immediate attention (like SARS- which they didn't tackle early enough) had decided -no doubt because national pride has been peeved - to take retaliatory action against roughly 48 nations by imposing strict visa requirements! It is not as if there are huge line-ups eagerly beating a path to Indonesia's shores-- what is Megawati doing?? Whose advice is she listening to?? Makes one wonder. Funny you should state in one of your headers: 'Cry, the beloved country.' It is a theme that came to me over and over again when I was in Bali in January. Even now-- then I saw you use the same term. It struck a chord. I share the loss of the happy, carefree yet gentle world of Bali... May it return one day."
• An Australian reader, Dale, sent an e-mail touching on two stores in edition #342.
"Sunday watched 60 minutes story on TV in Perth. Felt sorry for the people of Bali & thought perhaps it was time to go back & support the Bali people. Tuesday evening watched story on evening news announcing new Visa for Australian arrivals approx $380 Aus. Gone completely off the idea of visiting Bali. Call it whatever you like, this is simply a Tax that will set back Australian arrivals to Bali back to October 2002 levels. This Government will do more harm to tourist arrivals with this tax than any Bomb in downtown Kuta??"
• A reader named Dutchy had this to say:
"What a shocking news i received today from Bali Update. I have been visiting Bali 27 times for 2 months each year. and spent about $3500 each time. I just came back 3 weeks ago and now I find out that I'm not welcome any more. Shame on the people responsible. So now we have to make plans to go to Malaysia or Thailand where tourists are welcome. I can not believe it to be kicked out of my lovely Bali."
• The Royal Bali Yacht Club's Dick McCune wrote:
"A real set back for marine tourism (such as it is). Yacht owners visiting Bali will not appreciate a 90-day Cruising permit and a 30 day tourist visa to say nothing of the additional cost. Could we confuse and alienate our guests any more? No wonder all the marine tourism revenue is sailing west to Thailand."
• Well-known tourism consultant in Queensland, Andrew Sivjis observed:
"For quite some time now we have been watching with interest to see which path the visa issue for Indonesia will take. Despite the wealth of credible research and historic evidence highlighting the negative impacts of such an impost, the Indonesian Government, it appears, will firmly place its foot on the neck of its struggling tourism industry. If the charge is anywhere near the US$50 per person mentioned, say goodbye to any chance of enticing the ever-reliable Australian family market back to Bali. Simple economics and travel choices will force Australians (and others) to look elsewhere with Thailand and Malaysia likely beneficiaries. My family and I were looking forward to our next Bali adventure later this year but if this visa charge is introduced, I'll be knocking on the door of the Thai Airways office. In such troubled times, government needs to facilitate tourism not strangle it."
• From Italy, Giancarlo Cittolin, contributed the following:
"My wife and myself have visited Indonesia 15 times over the past 20 years. We consider it our second home. This absurd visa policy will sadly force us to wipe from now on any plan to come again. Each time we spent in the country more than 1.000,00 € per month, in terms of local transports, small eating and lodging facilities, purchase of handicrafts. Now it is easy to calculate the net loss of the people of Indonesia."
• An Executive of Bali's new airline - Air Paradise International, Gary Hilt joined many in being shocked at the visa decision:
"I read this news with absolute astonishment - devastating news, and the response from the industry in Australia I'm sure will be 'why do we bother?' After all we have done to attempt to get Bali back on track. This could spell disaster for the small 'price driven' numbers that we are tempting back."