BALI is facing one of its quietest Christmases in the last decade as Mount Agung proceeds to blow smoke into the sky. But the island’s Governor is insisting all the fear surrounding the volcanoes eruption is just the media creating hot air.
Bali’s Governor, Made Manggku Pastika, is urging the Consulate General of China in Denpasar, Hi Yinquan, to inform Chinese tourists the Island of the Gods in the Indonesian archipelago is safe to visit.
In November, the warning level was set to a level three alert, as representatives from the National Board of Disaster Management observed the volcano spitting clouds of grey and white ash. However, the alert was raised to a level four and those within a 10-kilometer range were urged to evacuate before the first eruption took place on November 27.
The paradise island, famous for surf, beaches, temples and perfect selfie spots, saw five million visitors last year, but business has slowed down across the island and hotels are only filling 25 percent of their rooms.
China’s Consulate General visited the island this week to assess the threat levels, and Made insisted only a small area surrounding the volcano was out of bounds for tourists, and the level four emergency status did not apply to the entire island.
There is only an eight-kilometer area around Mount Agung that is closed. This radius has receded considerably since the volcano’s first eruption. Both airports on the island have also since reopened and resumed normal business.
Global travelers, on the whole, seem undeterred about traveling to the island. “We had some concerns a couple of weeks ago but never considered canceling,” Shola, who is traveling to Bali next week, told Travel Wire Asia. “The main worry was getting in and out but it seems that once you’re there many of the tourist areas are unaffected.”
In the meeting between the two officials, Made assured Hu that every safety measure had been taken by both trained professionals and island residents to ensure the safe evacuation of everyone if the volcano decided to erupt again.
Hu insisted the travel warning issued by China was merely a precaution to inform travelers of the possible airport closures and disruptions to vacation plans. He also expressed sympathy for Bali’s current predicament and the impact it is having on the tourism industry.
Although tourism has slowed down, Chinese tourists make up the highest proportion of travelers to the island, making up 26.24 percent of the 3.4 million tourists Bali received in the first seven months of 2017.
China has also offered to build railways on the island to facilitate better transport links and entice more travelers.