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BALI UPDATE #417 - 06 September 2004

Evaluating Visas on Arrival
Government Undertaking 6-month Review of Controversial Visa–for-Pay Policy.

Representatives from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism visited Bali over the past week to meet with local tourism officials and industry leaders to gain data and input on the success or failure of the pay for visa policy (VOA) six months after its introduction on February 1, 2004.

According to the Indonesian-language DenPost, Hengy Hermantoro, the Assistant Deputy for Tourism Development from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism met with the Chief of the Bali Tourism Authority, Mr. Gede Nurjaya, and tourism industry representatives. During these meetings a number of technical problems connected to the visa policy were tabled. Among problems identified to the Ministry were difficulties encountered by visitors wishing to stay in Indonesia more than 30 days, and delays and inconvenience caused potential visitors by the lack of visa issuing offices overseas.

The Ministry is collecting data from tourism destinations nation-wide to form part of a final report to the Government on the sucess and future viability of the VOA policy.


Bali Arrivals: VOA Plus 6 Months
Bali By the Numbers: Detailed Breakdown of Bali Arrivals by Nationalities January – July, 2001-2004.

Figures are now available covering arrivals through July 2004 and providing a glimpse of the effects of the first six months of the Visa On Arrival (VOA) policy introduced on February 01, 2004.

Overall Performance

January through July arrivals for 2004 totaled 796,299, improving 60.79% over the same period one year earlier. Impressive improvement in arrivals when compared to a largely disastrous 2003, the strong performance of the current year still fails to match up arrivals for the corresponding period in 2002 (798,687) and 2001 (819,034)

Still, let's give 2004's performance its due: July's total direct foreign arrivals for Bali hit 148,177 – the best performance ever for any July in the island's history.

Asia Pacific Arrivals

Reflecting Bali's shift from a long-haul to regional destination, the entire Asia-Pacific region is demonstrating a strong rebound, with some markets setting new standards of Bali arrivals. The Asia-Pacific (excluding ASEAN) arrivals for the first seven months of 2004 improved 84.12% over 2003. Japan led the rebound improving 105.68% (163,925) for the year to date, but still failing to regain the lost glory of earlier years (2001 = 178,842).

Emerging as a new and important market for Bali is South Korea with 45,576 arrivals for January-July 2004, up 138% from totals just 4 years before in 2001.

Meanwhile, Taiwan continues to prove itself a steadfast source of visitors to Bali, largely impervious to security and other concerns. At 112,044 arrivals for the first seven months of 2004, Taiwan is Bali's third largest source market for visitors, leaving the much-touted but still underperforming PRC in the dust with a total of only 12,105 visitors for the same period.

Coming back with a vengeance are Australian tourists, Bali's second most important source market, clocking in with 147,872 for the first seven months of 2004. This record-setting performance will remain strong but with limits to further upward growth imposed by a severe lack of capacity among the airlines operating from Australia to Bali.

ASEAN

The 10-country ASEAN alliance managed to continue its record of chalking up yearly growth, up 22.63% from the first seven months of 2003. Dominating ASEAN arrivals for the period were Malaysia (27,594) and Singapore (24,413).

The Americas

Fettered by lingering travel warnings, U.S. arrivals remain sluggish during the first seven months of 2004 at 28,840, showing some improvement over 2003, but still 38.61% down from the 46,978 U.S. citizens who came to Bali in the same period in 2001.

Europe

Although 31.1% more Europeans visited Bali during January-July 2004 than one year before, current figures still lag 31.69% behind the same period in 2001 showing the lingering effects of restrictive visa policies and negative travel warnings.



The Gourmet Beachcomber
Bali's Beachfront Food Festival October 2-3, 2004.

In conjunction with the 2nd annual Kuta Karnival, the popular beachside Bali Food Festival is back on Legian Beach October 2-3, 2004. Situated on the beach running from the Legian Beach Hotel until the Bali Padma Hotel, a collection of food stalls offering the very best of Bali's wide-ranging culinary experiences will operate on each of the two evenings from 5:00 p.m. until 11:30 p.m..

Concerns for calorie-counting will take a holiday as locals and visitors alike sample food from some of the island's best kitchens, that organizers claim will be offered at cost prices.

While indulging the taste buds visitors will also be entertained with live music performances, DJ Chill-out sessions, fashion shows, championship bartender performances and a host of other street bazaar entertainments. Meanwhile, kids will be able to visit a children's bouncy castle (recommended before dinner), a special playground, and participate in face painting activities.

The evenings' festivities also include an auction where Balinese products, wines, paintings, jewelry, designers clothes, hotel room vouchers, tours, activities and airline tickets will all be on offer. Proceeds from the event will be donated to charities supporting the Bali community.

David Smith, a member of the organizing committee said, "We are excited about this year's event with over 10,000 visitors expected to enjoy our Food festival."



Hindu Youth Summit for Bali in November
November 26-30 World Hindu Youth Summit to Celebrate and Explore Bali's Cultural and Religious Roots.

Approximately 200 Hindu youth leaders from around the world are expected to attend the World Hindu Youth Summit scheduled for the Island of Bali November 26-30, 2004.

Among the stated goals of the summit will be the establishment of a Global Secretariat to internationally disseminate information on the Hindu religion.

Indonesia's ancient culture is founded on Hindu tenets, with Bali and its predominant Hindu population representing the last stronghold of that religion in the Country.

According to press reports, delegates are expected to attend from Indonesia, India, Nepal, the United States, Britain, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia at the 4-day event.

Among those helping to organize the event are the Independent Youth Hindu Intellectual Forum, Hindu Indonesia University, Ashram Gandhi Puri and Indonesia Hindu Youth Association.


The 911 ERS Fund?
Public Debate Grows Over Movement to Impose a US$ 30-40 Surcharge on Inbound Passengers to Bali.

Tourism circles in Bali are becoming increasingly vocal in expressing their concern over a movement afoot to try to impose a US$ 30-40 "safety and welfare" surcharge on all inbound international passengers visiting Bali.

The scheme – the brainchild of the Foundation Institute for the Safety of the Indonesian People (YLKMI), was initially advanced at a seminar held in Nusa Dua in December 2002. The proposed fund was named the 911 ERS Fund and had as its stated goals the funding of a number of public welfare and safety projects for Bali.

The Fund's organizers claimed a clause in the International Air Transport Association (IATA) regulations opened the way for the local government to impose a surcharge on inbound international air passengers.

According to press reports in the Indonesian-language Bali Post, the YLKMN then managed in July 2003 to obtain an endorsement letter for the project from Bali's Governor, Dewa Beratha. The Governor has subsequently explained and defended that endorsement, claiming that his support for the 911 Fund was conditional on the understanding that all costs would be borne by the YKLMI and no financial burden would be imposed in its implementation on the Government of Bali or the island's people.

The "911 ERS Fund" reportedly later used the Governor's letter as the basis for asking the international airlines operating to Bali that they make preparatory steps for the imposition of the proposed international air ticket surcharge. Questioning the legality of the request, airline operators have reportedly refused the YKLMI's request and openly questioned its wisdom given the delicate current state of Bali's tourism industry.

Responding to the public outcry against the introduction of the proposed 911 ERS Fund Fee, the Chief of the Bali Tourism Authority, Gede Nurjaya, issued a statement on September 1, 2004, emphasizing that the Governor's office never granted permission to the YLKMI or any other group to impose fees on the Public in connection with the 911 Fund.

The Debate Continues

The Chairman of the YKLMI and former Chief of the Bali Police, retired Brigadier General Wayan D. Ardjana, was reported in the local press to have washed his hands of the affair, claiming he has not been active in 911 ERS Fund's affairs since late 2003.

Meanwhile, the current Chief of Police for Bali, Irjen Drs. Made Mangku Pastika, told the Bali Post he had yet to receive a formal report on plans for the imposition of an air ticket fee, expressing his incredulity that anyone could be suggesting an additional fee so close on the heels of the Visa-on-arrival charge.

The Bali Post reports that the YKLMI's Secretary-General, Eddy S. Tjokronegoro, has urgently come to Bali to defend the Foundation and underline his group's intention to move ahead with plans to impose the US$ 30-40 fee on inbound passengers, with or without local government's approval.

Saying the idea behind the fee will receive widespread support among the people once its goals and programs are fully understood, Tjokronegoro claims his current discussions with Bali-bound IATA carriers would only impose the fee on foreign visitors and not Bali residents. By applying the proposed fee only on foreign visitors the YLKMI claims they would following the Governor's instructions not to financially burden the people of Bali.

Wait and See

Although dominating the front pages of local papers over the past week, the imposition of any additional surcharge on inbound visitors to Bali is anything but a done deal.

Judging from the loud public outcry from the local tourism industry and the desire among the island's political leaders to distance themselves from the proposal, the YKLMI has a long and most difficult road ahead in trying to lobby for the 911 ERS Fund acceptance and eventual implementation.


High Oil Prices May Spell Problems Ahead
Record High Oil Prices May Have Devastating Impact on Indonesia's National Economy in the Short to Medium Term.

Independent of the results of the coming Presidential elections on September 20, Indonesia's national economy faces a number of major stumbling blocks in the months ahead resulting from current record levels being paid on world markets for crude oil.

With oil prices approaching US$ 50 per barrel, the effects on the Indonesian economy could prove devastating. The State Budget for 2005 was calculated on an assumed crude oil price of US$ 24 per barrel, a price now seen as unrealistically low. As a result, a growing number of economic experts are calling for an urgent reforecast of the budget based on a projected US$ 35 a barrel.

The higher and more realistic assumed price of crude oil would recast the compete budget. Revenues earned from oil exports would increase while state expenditures in the form of fuel subsidies, electrical energy supports, and allocations paid from the central government to the provinces would all undergo significant increases.

For instance, a recalculation of fuel subsidies based on an increase of a presumed price of oil from US$ 24 to US$ 36 a barrel would increase the cost of government-provided fuel subsidies by nearly 300%, costing the Government Rp. 60 trillion in 2005 (approximately US$ 6.6 billion). Similarly, electrical energy subsidies worth Rp. 3.4 trillion (approximately US$ 377 million) in the 2005 budget would triple with projections based on higher crude oil prices.

Whether the State Budget is formally recalculated or not will make little difference in the massive deficit looming ahead and described by some economist as a waiting "time bomb."The Country has few options available in meeting the challenge of the deficit certain to grow in the current situation. Cutting fuel subsidies is widely considered politically unviable. While the Government will almost certainly be forced to increase taxes, the only short term solution for Indonesia is to increase its already large and burdensome national debt. Indonesia's foreign debit now stands at US$ 68 billion and domestic debit at more than US$ 70 billion.

Spending Less While on Holiday
Statistic Bureau Cites Numerous Reasons for Lower Spending Levels Among Tourist Visitors to Indonesia.

Representatives of the Directorate of Tourism Statistics from the National Statistics Center (BPS) are projecting a continuing decline in the average spending levels of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia in 2004.

The average expenditure level for foreign tourists in 2003 averaged US$ 903.74. According to Mr. Adi Lumanksono, the head of the Sub-Directorate for Tourism Statistics at the BPS and quoted in the Indonesian-language Bisnis Indonesia, he sees a slight continuing decline in spend levels due to the strengthening of a number of major currencies against the Indonesian Rupiah; a more competitive air fare environment making a holiday in Indonesia less expensive than in the past; and a shorter length of stay for tourists visiting the country.

Since 1994 the average spend of tourists visiting Indonesia has declined 24.34% from US$ 1,194.43 to its 2003 level of US$ 903.74.

Average spending figures are tabulated via exit interviews conducted twice a year by the BPS at major gateways, during high and low seasons for tourism arrivals.


A Seoul-full Welcome
Ritz Carlton Bali Appoints Korean Guest Relations Coordinator.

Perhaps partly reflecting the changing demographics of Bali's arrivals, The Ritz Carlton, Bali Resort & Spa have appointed Ms. San Eun, a Korean national, as the Hotel's Korean Guest Relations Coordinator.

A graduate of Bali's Institute of Tourism, the Seoul, Korea native has worked in a number of hospitality positions in Bali and Singapore, including a stint at The Regent Hotel, Singapore.

Fluent in her native Korean, English and Bahasa Indonesia, the 23-year-old San Eun sees her job as creating a cultural bridge between the people of her homeland and the people of Bali. She told balidiscovery.com, "I'm so proud to share my knowledge of this wonderful island and the magnificent The Ritz-Carlton, Bali Resort and Spa with my people. It is a very exciting position which I am honored to hold."

In order to better serve their Korean guests the hotel has also produced its first Korean-language brochure and has a Korean Cable Channel available on its in-house TV system.



Rock 'n Run IV
Hard Rock Hotel Sponsors Fourth Annual Charity Fun Run.

Last year's run was known as "The Trilogy."

This year's Hard Rock Hotel's 5 kilometer fun run for charity is back - "Rock 'n Run IV – The Quadophrenia."

Run for Someone Else's Life

This year's event is set for Sunday, October 3, 2004, with the start and finish lines in front of the Hard Rock Hotel. The race begins at 7:30 a.m. and the route will see runners following Bali's famous beach side boulevard before following Jalan Melasti, Jalan Legian before turning at bemo corner for the home-stretch back to the hotel.

A Rp. 50,000 (approximately US$ 5.55) participation fee gets runners a T-shirt (while supplies last) and refreshments.

Proceeds from this years event will be donated to a local charitable foundation - Yayasan Citra Usadha.

For more information or to register contact Dewi or Fretty at the Hard Rock Hotel, telephone ++62-(0)361-761869 – extension #8164 or #8163.


The Brits are Back
Telegraph On Line Newspaper Says British are Back and Loving it in Bali.

Fred Mawar, a correspondent for the U.K. on-line newspaper telegraph.co.uk wrote an article Back to Bali in that publication's September 4, 2004 edition.

Following the lifting of the U.K. Government's travel-ban for Bali, Mawar reports that the British are now back in Bali and that most flights heading towards the island are full.

Now that is good news!



Volunteer for Ubud's Writers/Readers Festival
Support Sought to Make Bali's First Writers Festival a Success.

A call has been issued for volunteers to help in the preparation an actual hosting of the Ubud's Writers/Readers Festival to be held in Bali in October 11-17, 2004.

The list of tasks awaiting volunteers continues to grow but already includes people to answer e-mails, provide airport transfers for guest writers, program coordinators, ticket sellers and – the list goes on.

Over eighty writers are scheduled to appear at the event.

Corporate sponsors are still sought to support specific elements of the event.

Interested in lending a hand? Potential volunteers can obtain more information by calling Richard Birchfield at ++62-(0)361-289553.



Reported HIV/AIDS Cases in Bali Hit 3,000
Infection Rates Grow Despite Prevention and Educational Programs.

Antara News Agency reports that the total number of HIV/AIDS cases in the capital city of Denpasar since 1987, when records were first established on the progress of the epidemic, has now reached 261. The report quoted a local volunteer in combating HIV/AIDS as saying that from that total, nine persons have already lost their lives to the disease.

Island wide there are over 3,000 reported cases of HIV/AIDS while nationwide the various estimates of those infected vary from 90,000 to 150,000.

Mangku Karmaya, who coordinates Bali HIV/AID information center, said that almost 33% of those infected in Bali contracted the virus through illicit intravenous drug use, while the remaining 1,900 resulted from sexual contact.

Under-funded community projects continue to disseminate information to the local population on the dangers of HIV/AIDS and how to avoid contamination while work to provide care, counseling and medication to those already infected with the disease.


Skal Bali Reborn
After a Brief Hiatus Skal Bali Appoints New Board.

After six months of dormancy, Skal International Bali Club 598 is back in business.

The international organization of travel professionals headquartered in Toromolinos, Spain, with local chapters around the world, has revived its Bali branch by installing a new executive committee during a luncheon at the Bali Hilton on Friday, August 27, 2004.

Re-established with 25 active members, Bali Skal is undertaking a membership drive in order to build the base support needed for the Club's program of community assistance projects. Bali travel professionals interested in obtaining more information on Skal Bali or wishing to apply for membership should use the e-mail link provided at the end of this report.

More information: Skal Bali E-mail Link
 
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