To some degree echoing an article that appeared on Balidiscovery.com in May 2009 [Pak Legowo: Please Listen to the Governor ], Bali's governor Made Mangku Pastika has written an unusual and very public report on the abysmal conditions prevailing at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport. The open letter, dated June 22, 2009, is addressed to the Minister of Transportation, the Minister of Culture and Tourism, the Minister for State-Owned Enterprises, the Director General of Immigration and the Director General of Customs and Excise with copies forwarded to The President of Indonesia, the Chairman of the Bali Tourism Board, and the General Manager of the Airport's Management Authority Angkasa Pura.
Beginning his letter by citing numerous complaints from tourists, tourism industry stakeholders and the general public, the governor says that despite a number of coordination meetings with the Bali airport authority in the past, those meetings have failed to yield any improvements in how Bali's main gateway is operated.
The letter, sent with a video illustrating his written complaints, listed the following shortcomings at Bali's only international airport:
• The presence of "too many" porters at the airport who commandeer baggage trolleys, giving the impression that tourists are somehow obliged to use their services and creating complaints later when tips are demanded. According to Pastika, the need for porters at the airport is questionable, given the lack of porters at many international airports and the fact that in Bali the porter's presence serves to make an already crowded airport even more crowded.
• There are only four Visa on Arrival counters to serve the airport at peak operational hours, resulting in long waiting lines.
• The airport has 24 immigration counters, a number actually sufficient to support tourist arrivals, but, in fact, failing to do the job as only a portion of the counters are ever staffed. Once again, the result: long lines and many complaints from tourist visitors.
• Airport Officials engage in predatory behavior, approaching tourists standing in lines offering "express service" through immigration in return for a fee.
• The presence of many brochure racks offering package tours and transportation services at low fees that make "no sense." The services offered in these brochures cause losses to Bali's official tour and travel operators, who provide a guaranteed level of service and realistic pricing.
Despite numerous past complaints to the airport about these brochures and promises by Angkasa Pura that remedial steps would be taken, the brochures continue to be on display at the airport. According to Pastika, a further investigation by his office also reveals that brochure distribution, counters and advertising at the airport are all controlled by a third party appointed by Angkasa Pura.
• Tourist Information Counters at the airport which are supposed to distribute brochures and provide information to incoming tourists are, in fact, selling cut-rate tours that anger legal tour operators.
• There are too many money changers within the airport. In the arrival area, there are 12 money changers all gathered together in a single line of booths near the exit corridor lane of the airport's arrival section. According to the governor, 5 money changers would be a more ideal number and that number should be located outside the arrival hall.
• The accumulation of security staff in certain areas of the airport give the impression that they are "working while socializing with each other."
• The over abundance of commercial space rented out at the airport. As a result, the domestic arrival area is very cramped with no chairs, causing disorder outside the arrival hall where people have no place to sit while waiting for arriving passengers.
• The presence of "special rooms" used by Customs and Immigration to "sort out problems" which, according to the governor, is against the rules of Customs and Immigration.
The unusual move by Governor Pastika of writing an open report on the many problems at Bali's airport brings into sharp focus the anger and frustration felt by Bali's tourism industry and the general public with the poor condition and inferior service provided to the public at Bali's airport. It also underlines what appears to be a growing rift between the Governor and the Airport's Manager, Heru Legowo.
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