"I am overwhelmed by the superb customer service you are providing. Your concern, kindness and professionalism is to be admired. I truly appreciate all of your valuable assistance and have total confidence in your company."
Justice and Human Rights Minister Promises Sweeping Changes in the Works.
Speaking following a meeting with the President on Wednesday, January 4, 2006, Indonesia's Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Hamid Awaludin told the press that Indonesia's Immigration Department would undergo fundamental and sweeping changes in 2006.
Responding to angry criticism from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and extensive press coverage in recent weeks, Minister Hamid was quoted in the Indonesian-language Bali Post as saying that the promised changes would go beyond mere changes in those who occupy key posts but extend also to cover job descriptions and apwecific functions within the immigration directorate.
The Minister suggested that current areas of responsibility where there is little or no supervision of immigration affairs would result in new appointments, while unnecessary bureaucratic positions would be eliminated. Insisting that the immigration department would remain under his Ministerial portfolio, Hamid said Indonesian immigration would continue to operate as a Directorate General, but with a much more "rational, streamlined and efficient" style of management.
According the Minister, part of the immigration revamp will include a "refreshment" of staff, indicating that significant changes in staff appointments would commence early in 2006.
Hamid also told the press that President Yudhoyono remain firm in his desire to see structural change take place within Indonesia's immigration department, not only to address recently uncovered large-scale financial malfeasance but also to repair the damage done by poor immigration service to Indonesia's image both at home and abroad.
Hamid confirmed to the press that two immigration officials have recently been recalled from the Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in connection with inidications of widespread abuse within the Consular section of that Embassy.
Bali's Hotel & Restaurant Tax Revenues to Dive
Badung Officials Predict a 23.55% Drop in Bali's Hotel & Restaurant Tax Takings in 2006.
Badung regency officials are expecting the current downturn in business will persist well into 2006, predicting that the 11% tax levy added to restaurant and hotel bills will net government coffers some 23.55% less than the amount collected in 2005.
Badung is Bali's southernmost regency and home to the majority of Bali's major hotels.
The Chairman of Commission C of the Regional Parliament Badung Regency, I Wayan Suwaedana, is estimating that total Hotel & Restaurant Tax (PHR) intake will decline to Rp. 211 billion (approximately US$21 million), down from the estimated Rp. 276 billion (approximately US$26.6 million) collected in 2005.
Of the projected Rp. 211 billion budgeted PHR revenues for 2006, tax officials expect that Rp. 193 billion will be generated by hotels operating in the Badung regency and the balance from local restaurant operations.
The Art of Learning by Doing
A Book Written and Produced By Children in 5 Remote East Bali Villages is Becoming an International Best Seller.
The award-winning Ekoturin Foundation’s East Bali Poverty Project (EBPP), was established in July 1998 to improve the living standards of an isolated mountain area of Bali that is home to over two thousand families. Striving to achieve sensible, ecologically sustainable development, the EBPP avoids hand-outs of money, rice or any other short-term solutions; seeking projects that empower the local community and are in keeping with EBPP's 5 hamlet communities self-declared needs and aspirations.
To learn more of the the many and extensive community development projects of EBPP visit their Web site [East Bali Poverty Project].
Education, supported by full community motivation and participation has been the cornerstone of EBPP's remarkable progress to date. The programs undertaken have touched on almost every aspect of the local villagers' lives including nutrition, health, hygiene, sanitation, sustainable land improvement and creative arts into the education programmes.
Taking into account the situation of the families in this impoverished area of Bali, children only attend school for three days each week - half a day each day, permitting them to still help their parents in the fields and feeding the cows that are a main source of income. Despite their abbreviated hours in the classroom, the EBPP supported children manage to complete the entire government curriculum with 97 children recently receiving graduation certificates with good grades. In addition, their classroom experience has taught them new practical skills in the fields of health and sanitation, nutrition and sustainable organic agriculture.
Listen to the Children
Somewhat surprising initially, the EBPP kids have become a powerful agent for positive change in their previously subsistence farming mountain society. They now act as their parent's teachers, sharing lessons learned at school in the rudiments of organic vegetable farming. As a result, many nutritious vegetables and medicinal herbs are now growing on steep and previously barren slopes that had never supported crops before.
The Art of Learning by Doing
The important role played by the EBPP children in advancing the quality of life in their local communities served as the catalyst for the creatrion of an amazing educational art story book entitled "The Art of Learning by Doing", now being sold and distributed internationally in order to share the story of life in East Bali and the role of children in community building. Based on the best 105 of thousands of paintings created BY EBPP kids from 2001 to 2005, the book represents an amazing chronicle of a traditional community's struggle to carve out a sustainable future for itself.
Published bilingually in both English and Bahasa Indonesia, "The Art of Learning by Doing" is being purchased by people wishing to share it simple yet powerful message with children and grandchildren, and by generous donors who purchase copies for distribution in rural villages across Bali and the rest of the Indonesian archipelago.
Already in its second print-run, copies of "The Art of Learning by Doing" are available for a minimum donation Rp. 150,000 per copy (approximately US$1.50).
Australians Buying a Garuda Ticket to Bali Have the Chance to Win a Free Companion Ticket.
The long-awaited Australian Garuda Indonesia ticket give-away has finally been announced.
Garuda Indonesia is preparing to give away 1600 round trip airfares from Australia to Bali in what Airline spokesmen term the "biggest promotion ever" from Australia to the Paradise Island.
Called the "Love Bali" promotion, Australian residents who purchase tickets to Bali during the specified time frame have the chance to win an additional free companion-ticket to travel on the same flights and in the same class.
Here's how the program will work:
• Ticket must be purchased between January 16 and 28, 2006 (and issued between 16 and 31 January 2006) from retail travel agents, ticketed direct by the Airline, through a wholesaler, or via am air consolidator. Travel tickets purchased must be for trips between 13 February and 14 June 2006.
• In order to qualify for a chance to win a free companion ticket the ticket number of the Garuda ticket number (including 3 digit airline code and 10 digit serial number) along with the city of departure should be sent by SMS to the following number 1992 3456. Detailed instructions on how to enter will be available wherever Garuda tickets are sold in Australia. Be sure to carefully enter the ticket number. Only one entry per ticket! Entries close strictly at 11:59 p.m. on February 2, 2006.
• A reply SMS from Garuda will confirm receipt of each entry.
• A drawing of the 1600 free tickets will take place on February 2 with winners informed by SMS on 10 February 2006.
• Winners must return to wherever they purchased their original ticket to claim their free companion ticket. Travel will be on the same date and same class as the original ticket. Taxes, fuel surcharges and any passport fees are not included and remain the responsibility of the winner.
• Travel must occur between February 13 – June 14, 2006.
• Industry discount fares are excluded from the competition, with all other ticket classes eligible, including Garuda’s recently announced “Early Bird” fares.
Commenting on the promotion, Garuda Indonesia's Regional Manager, South West Pacific, Suranto Yitnopawiro., said: "The 'Love Bali' promotion will assist in rebuilding the strong repeat client base that recent events have affected, while allowing the opportunity for new visitors to form a relationship with Australia's most loved destination .The promotion has been deliberately structured to stimulate the market in a way that helps our retail and wholesale partners gain a direct sales benefit." Adding, "We aim to reward repeat travelers to Bali, and to encourage new visitors so as to strengthen our overall business base."
Garuda Indonesia will support the promotion with a coordinated public relations and advertising campaign throughout Australia.
Indonesian Tourism Target for 2006 Set
Aiming for Improvement Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik Aims for 5.5 Million Visitors in 2006.
Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism, Jero Wacik, has announced a "moderate" foreign tourist arrival target of 5.5 million for 2006. That total, projected to generate US$5 billion in foreign exchange earnings, would represent a 7.8% improvement over 2005 arrivals expected to end the year at 5.1 million.
In explaining the 2006 target to the press, Minister Wacik labeled 5.5 million as a moderate target indicating that an optimistic scenario could see 6 foreign million visitors pay a call on Indonesia during 2006.
A Cautious Outlook
The just announced 2006 figures are still below actual performance for 2004 when 5.32 foreign arrivals were recorded spending an estimated US$4.7 billion.
The Minister justified the modest targets for 2006 explaining that Indonesia is still working to recover from the negative impact of the October 2005 bombing in Bali and the fears of a bird flu epidemic.
December Foreign Arrival Numbers Slide
Bali by the Numbers: Preliminary Data Indicates -36.98% Decrease in December 2005 Arrivals for Bali.
Raw data tracking daily arrivals at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport suggest that December foreign passenger arrivals dipped 36.98% when compared to December one year before.
79,103 passengers disembarked from international flights in Bali in December, down from the 125,525 record number of foreign visitors who flew in during the month of December 2004.
An Improving Statistical Profile?
Perhaps all was not doom and gloom statistically as 2005 December arrivals still managed to post an improvement over arrivals for the same period just 2 years before, up 24.78% from December 2003 total foreign arrivals of 63,393.
Concerning, nonetheless, are indications that the gap in arrivals for 2005 versus 2004 widened considerably in the second half of the month.
This trend could be reflective of a deepening crisis or the result of substantial decline in available seats out of Australia, Japan and other key markets compared to just 12 months before.
World Music Comes to Ubud
Denmark's New Jungle Orchestra and Bali's Semara Ratih Gamelan Ensemble Join Forces for One Night Only Performance on Saturday, January 14, 2006.
And now for something musically very different.
For one night only, one of Bali's leading gamelan ensembles - Semara Ratih will share a stage with Denmark's New Jungle Orchestra on Saturday, January 14, 2006 at Pura Dalem in Ubud.
Guaranteed to be a musical event not soon to be forgotten, East meets West in a traditional Indonesian performance setting pregnant with the promise of the birth of a new musical sound incubated during a series historic recording sessions now underway between the two groups.
New Jungle Orchestra
Founded in 1980, the New Jungle Orchestra drew its name and early inspiration from the "jungle" sound then being pioneered by the renowned Duke Ellington Orchestra. Hard if not impossible to classify musically, the past three decades of music making and recording have been influenced by the music of Charles Mingus, Gil Evans, Carla Bley and more recent encounter with non-Western world music. These talented twelve musicians, who have recently performed before Queen Margharita of Denmark and the Emperor of Japan, are led by composer-performer, Ivan Hansen, a long-time student of Balinese gamelan.
Now celebrating the 17th year since its founding, Semara Ratih was initially formed by students and teachers of Bali's famed University of Fine Arts (STSI – now, ISI) seeking to explore gamelan music beyond the srict confines of ritual and temple performances. Impeccable in their presentation of traditional Balinese music, Semara Ratih equally excels when they venture into new and experimental forms of both music and dance.
Much in demand both in Bali and their frequent overseas performances, Semara Ratih has played with the New Jungle Orchestra during their frequent stops in Copenhagen.
One Night Only
The combined concert by New Jungle Orchestra and Semara Ratih will feature solo performances from both groups and a number of new collaborative compositions. Promising to be both amusing and stimulating, one of the combined numbers is a musical simulation of a cockfight between two saxophones, set against a kecak dance background. In another number, Bali's premier Baris dancer A. Anom will perform with the Danish group's percussionist – a dancer for Ghana.
Date: Saturday, January 14, 2006
Time: 7:30 p.m. start
Place: Pura Dalem, Ubud
Cost: Rp. 100,000 payable at the door (approximately US$10)
Frank Beck Called to Bali
Frank Beck Assumes Top Job at Sheraton Laguna Nusa Dua, Bali.
Frank Beck's distinguished career path with Sheraton Hotels has brought him back for his third Indonesia assignment, this time as the General Manager of the Sheraton Laguna Nusa Dua, Bali.
The 1994 recipient of the prestigious Sheraton President's Award, Beck's career with Starwood Hotels & Resorts began in 1990 at the Sheraton Munich Hotel & Towers, as a headwaiter. Quickly climbing the management ladder in the food and beverage department, while working at Sheraton properties in Germany and Qatar.
His first Indonesian assignment was as Director of Food and Beverage during the opening of Sheraton Bandara, Jakarta, from 1996 to 1998. Later, he returned to Germany before accepting General Manager postings with the company in Lombok and Seoul before his latest Indonesian assignment.
"I'm very happy to be back in Indonesia and Bali," said the German native. "Bali has always felt like home and I see many familiar faces among our staff members," he added.
As reported on balidiscovery.com [ A Passage to India], Beck replaces Stephen J. Ford who has accepted a regional role in Delhi, India.
Love Your Ancestral Lands!
Megawati Asks the Balinese to Adopt a Long-Term View on Land Sales and Agriculture.
Repeating a warning made during her presidency and reported on balidiscovery.com [ Stop Selling Your Land!], Megawati Soekarnoputri was in Bali last week renewing her call on the Balinese to maintain their control of the island's real estate and renew their interest in agriculture.
On the Island to attend rallies for the Bali branch of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Megawati urged the Balinese not to be motivated solely by economic factors to sell their lands to "outsiders," warning the Balinese would eventually find their island controlled by non-Balinese interests.
Focus on Agriculture
The former Indonesian President led a rally of 4,000 supporters at Pura Ulun Danu in Bali's mountain-lake district where she supervised the planting of 6,000 trees, the distribution of basic food supplies to local residents, and the release of new fish stocks into Lake Buyan.
Calling on the Balinese to renew their love of agriculture and land, Megawati decried the receding water levels of Bali’s fresh water lakes which she blamed on deforestation and bad agricultural practice.
According to the former President, the Balinese must continue to preserve and protect traditional crops such as coffee, cloves and nutmeg and not be tempted to cut down the trees that produce these crops at the first sign of a price drop. Pointing to the bitter lessons learned by the clove farmers of Manado (North Sulawesi) who adopted similar tactics, she called on farmers to preserve their traditional tree crops in order to conserve the natural environment, avoid tragic land slides, and be in a position to reap the financial benefits when the crop price cycle again peaks.
Megawati asked her followers where the Balinese will live if they only seek short term profits from their lands and sell their properties to non-Balinese interest. Urging the people to avoid God’s eventual wrath for their short-sightedness, Megawati told the rally: "Dont suffer karmapala for destroying nature. Remember, nature is the Almighty's gift (to us) and it must be protected and preserved. Fail to do this and Bali will eventually be destroyed."
Gauging the Downturn in Domestic Tourism
Kuta's Central Bus Parking Facility Reports a 55.39% Drop in Traffic for December 2005.
While firm data demonstrating the size and trends in domestic tourism to Bali is hard to come by, figures just released from the Central Bus Terminal in Kuta suggest that large increases in domestic fuel prices have had their toll on December's domestic visitor totals.
The Head of the Kuta Central Parking Terminal, Haji Agus Bambang Priyanto, told the Indonesian-language Bisnis Bali that the number of busses using his facility in December 2005 totaled 409, down 55.39% from the 917 busses that parked there in December 2004.
The October 01 fuel price increase, which saw the cost of diesel fuel increase 185.7%, has caused overland bus operators from Java to increase their fares between 80-100%.
On a separate but related level, Bali's traditional "sold out" situation over the Christmas-New Year holidays failed to materialize with the Island's accommodatrion providers. While many hotels enjoyed higher occupancies over this period, few found themselves turning booking away as is traditionally the case over the Christmas holiday period.
Denpasar Sets to Introduce Towing Service for Illegally Park Vehicles.
The finishing touches are being applied on enacting legislation that will allow police in Denpasar to haul away and impound illegally parked motor vehicles.
The draft local law has been approved by Indonesia's Ministry of the Interior clearing the way for formal introduction of an enacting decree by Denpasar’s Mayor's office.
Expected to be in effect in less than three months, the legislation will allow police and local traffic officials to impound and haul away illegally parked vehicles to lots under the control of Bali's Transportation Department. Owners of four-wheeled vehicles will be compelled to pay Rp. 250,000 (approximately US$25) for the towing service while vehicles of more than 4 wheels will pay Rp.350,000 (approximately US$35).
In anticipation of the tow-away regime, two towing vehicles are ready for operation. Operational supervision of the vehicles will be a joint responsibility shared among the police, transportation authorities and Denpasar public order officers.
Looking Forward to Life in Bali
Dahlia Panjaitan Joins Bali's Westin Resort as Director of Sales.
Ms. Dahlia Panjaitan has joined The Westin, Nusa Dua, Bali as its Director of Sales.
A graduate in Japanese literature from the University of Indonesia, Dahlia speaks fluent Japanese. Prior to arriving in Bali, she has worked for various companies in Jakarta, including several years with Mandarin Oriental Jakarta and most recently as Director of Sales in the Jakarta Sales Office of Le Meridien Bali.
Eager to have the opportunity to work in Bali, Dahlia says: "This is the first time for me to live and work on the island of the Gods, something I had wanted to do for a long time. I am looking forward to discussing with our partners around the globe, the brand strength of Westin and the charm that Bali has to offer."
The Westin's Resort's Director of Sales and Marketing, Tabatha Ramsay, welcomed Dahlia on board her team, adding "I'm glad to have Dahlia onboard. Her 10 years experience is an additional strength to the team, and her Japanese language skills will also be welcomed by the many Japanese guests of our modern resort."
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