A string of recent terrorist incidents elsewhere in Indonesia has not impacted the tourist industry in Bali, where the risk is considered low. But Balinese are taking no chances when it comes to security.
A spate of minor terrorist incidents and a string of arrests elsewhere in Indonesia have not stopped foreign visitors from flocking to Bali, which is enjoying robust and expanding tourism.
"We are really glad that the recent incidents have not affected tourism in Bali. Tourists still come to the island. We hope that tourists will keep coming," the chairman of the Indonesian Tourism Industry Association (GIPI) in Bali, Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, told Khabar Southeast Asia.
"As of now, the recent incidents have yet to affect the arrival of tourists. We haven't received any cancellations from tourists who would come to Bali," echoed Al Purwa, a representative of the Bali branch for the Association of Indonesia Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA).
The sector's success demonstrates how well Bali has rebounded over the ten years since the massive bomb attacks on the tourist town of Kuta on October 12th, 2002 that killed 202 and injured at least 240 others. Bali is preparing for a massive tenth anniversary commemoration of the deadly event, carried out by members of the Islamist extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah.
Since that tragedy Indonesia has worked diligently to root out terrorism, and the past four weeks have seen some degree of activity. A total of 24 terror suspects have been arrested in Solo, Central Java; in Depok and Bogor, West Java; and in Ambon, according to Kompas.
In Bali, hotel occupancy remains high, at 80%, according to the chairman of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association (PHRI), Tjok Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati.
"September is considered a low season in the tourism industry; hotel occupancy is usually only around 60%. But this time we've reached a record 80%. It means that the tourism sector hasn't been negatively impacted by the recent incidents," Artha Ardhana said.
Bali Tourism Agency head Ida Bagus Subhiksu said that no one from overseas had asked about Bali's security condition.
"Usually, when there is any incident related to security across Indonesia, we receive emails from the foreign consulates in Bali or tour operators overseas asking about the situation in Bali. But this time, no one is asking. We hope they really understand that the incidents happened far away from Bali," he said.
The island, which has a population of 3.9 million, is on track to host some three million tourists in this year, he said.
Security tightened at entry points
Nevertheless, Balinese at all levels of society are increasing their vigilance.
Local police are working with the Udayana Military Command to tighten security at the island's vital entry points, including its air, cargo and ferry ports.
"All of us should be more vigilant. Don't ever be neglectful. Terrorists have been in Java. We have to anticipate the possibility that they will go to other areas," Udayana Military Command Chief Major General Wisnu Bawa Tenaya said.
The tourism industry has responded to the recent incidents by increasing their security measures, according to Wijaya, the Indonesian Tourism Industry Association in Bali head. And Bali residents are also participating in the effort through the island's traditional village system.
The Bali Traditional Village Council (Majelis Utama Desa Pakraman/MUDP) has issued a letter with security reminders, MUDP Secretary-General Ketut Sumarta said.
"The traditional security system has played a big role in securing the island for many years. The letter was issued only to remind the leaders and members of Desa Pekraman," he said.
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika has urged the island's residents to be more vigilant.
"Security threats have increased in the country. Minor terrorism acts have happened outside Bali. We should anticipate that the same incidents could happen on this island. Let's together keep the island secure," said the retired police general, who led an international task force that successfully apprehended al-Qaeda-linked terrorists responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing.
The Balinese are also vigilant about preserving the long-established interfaith harmony on the Hindu-majority Island.
In a recent speech to more than 1,000 members of Al-Khidmah Muslim community at Masjid Agung Mosque in downtown Denpasar on September 16th, Pastika said religious organisations have an important role in managing social problems.
"All of us should be open, mutually giving and receiving in social-religious relationships. We should use religious activities, social spiritual activities, to build togetherness and brotherhood amid the differences," he said during a special prayer for a peaceful and prosperous Bali.
The Chairman of Al-Khidmah's Denpasar branch, Ali Masyhudi, said: "It is the obligation of all the people in Bali, regardless of their religious and ethnic background, to secure the island and to promote peace and prosperity for the island and its people. Bali's safety and security is in our utmost interest."
In the wake of deadly jail beatings of a Pakistani and an Indian prisoner that rattled bilateral relations, students at South Asian University have taken up the cause of peace and harmony between t...