Tourists have ‘second thoughts’ about Bali after volcano warning

A farmer works in his field with Mount Agung, a volcano on the highest alert level. Source: Reuters

BALI’S Mount Agung, which has been rumbling since August and is predicted to erupt imminently, has put some tourists’ plans on the back burner, Reuters reported.

Volcanic tremors and billowing white smoke have caused alarm in the last few days, prompting the evacuation of some 81,000 villagers from the paddy fields at the base of the forested slopes of the mountain.

On top of that, Indonesian officials have imposed a 12km exclusion zone around the volcano, whose last eruption in 1963 killed over 1,000 people and destroyed several settlements.

Countries including Australia, Bali’s largest tourist market, Singapore, and the US, have issued travel advisories alerting holidaymakers to the risk. A hotel operator in Bali told Reuters that news of the volcano had caused some guests to cancel their plans.

Ketut Purnawata, manager of Dasawana Resort, located in the same district as the volcano, said: “Business is getting low since Mount Agung’s alert status was raised to the highest level.”

Meanwhile, airlines operating in the region including those coming in from Australia and Singapore said they were preparing for any possible disruptions due to an eruption, but flights were running normally for now.

Virgin Australia and Jetstar, both of which fly to Bali from Australia, said they would carry extra fuel in case they needed to reverse course quickly.

Jetstar and Singapore-based budget carrier Scoot said they had been contacted by a small number of customers looking to change their travel dates. “Less than 100 customers chose to rebook to a later date,” a Scoot spokeswoman told the wire.

Singapore Airlines and its short-haul arm SilkAir said customers traveling to Bali until Oct 2 could rebook or request a refund, while AirAsia said flights were operating normally.

Many concerned passengers took to Twitter to ask airlines about cancellation options, and several mentioned cancelling their plans altogether. One Indonesian travel agency said it had seen some cancellations from domestic and international travelers.

“There will definitely be an impact on (sales of) tour packages but we don’t know the figures yet,” said Agustinus Pake Seko of PT Bayu Buana travel agency.

President Joko Widodo was expected to visit evacuation centers in Bali.

Additional reporting by Reuters.