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On Tuesday, May 5, 2009, Air Asia commenced its new daily flight service connecting Bali and Perth, Western Australia. The Indonesian associate of the AirAsia Group - AirAsia Indonesia is using an Airbus 320 for is daily flights on the new route, the fifth international route operated by the company from Bali. The low-cost-carrier also flies from Bali to Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Bangkok and Singapore. In a departure from most international airlines flying to Bali who focus almost exclusively on inbound tourism to Indonesia, AirAsia is also banking on strong demand in both directions and the ability to market Western Australian holidays via their nationwide network to the Indonesian public. According to Dharmadi, CEO of AirAsia Indonesia, there is also a market of 19,000 Indonesian students seeking a higher education in Australia. Meanwhile, in a related development, the latest statistics for Bali tourism see Australia poised to displace Japan as the top source of foreign tourists to Bali.
Shopping Around for an Airport
Bali's Airport Managers at Odds with Governor Over Commercialization of Island's Main Gateway.
As reported on Balidiscovery.com, Bali's governor Made Mangku Pastika has recently rejected the proposed redevelopment plan for Bali's international airport; calling for less commercialization, more efficiency and greater attention to Balinese design aspects in plans for an revamp of the existing airport. [See: Bali Airport Renovation Rejected by Governor] Radar Bali suggests that Heru Legowo, General Manager of PT Angkasa Pura - the operating authority of the Ngurah Rai International Airport, is paying little heed to the comments from the island's Chief Executive. When interviewed by Radar Bali, Legowo indicated he would be carrying on with plans to increase the area dedicated to commercial activity at the airport, with 40% of building space set aside for businesses. Acknowledging that he was aware of the governor's unfavorable view of current renovation plans, Legowo insisted that he would be going ahead with plans to increase space dedicated for handicraft sales, saying the airport shops would not be in competition with outside art markets. "I am certain that we will not be hurting the handicraft markers outside the airport. There are tourists who did not have the chance to shop at those markets and will have a chance to do so at the airport. It's impossible that this will destroy the outside markets," explained Legowo. In fairness to Bali's governor, his objections to the over-commercialization of Bali's airport was more concerned with the resulting general disarray and inefficiencies than with the issue too many handicraft vendors renting space at the airport. The lack of a proper commercial plan has resulted in as many as eight money changers operating side by side in the arrival hall, tens of reflexology shops and an overabundance of nondescript handicraft shops all vying for business. Heru also told the press that increasing the number of shops at the airport was his duty as the local head of a State-Owned enterprise charged with increasing profits for his employers. Heru added: "if we only provide operational services at the airport, where will we obtain our income? Because of this we are compelled to increase the commercial space." As part of the airport expansion program, 69 homes used by Angkasa Pura employees and located immediately adjacent to the current airport will soon be demolished. Heru said that he is now working to complete the airport design so the bidding process can commence and construction can get underway before the end of 2009.
Despite Increasing Arrivals Bali Tourism Still Suffering
Bali ASITA Chairman Al Purwa: Management and Promotion of Indonesian Tourism Seriously Lacking.
Bisnis.com quotes Al Purwa, Chairman of the Bali branch of the Indonesian Association of Travel Agents (ASITA), as bemoaning the lack of proper tourism management by the government which has resulted in minimal returns for Bali's tourism economy, despite rising arrival numbers. Explained Purwa: "the weakness of our tourism product is due to the fact that the tourism operators are not 'solid.' Meanwhile, the local government pays little attention to issues of supply and demand in granting new business permits which results in unhealthy competition in the market place." As reported on Balidiscovery.com, Bali foreign tourist arrivals continue to buck global trends, operating in record territory for Q1 of 2009 [See: Bali Q1 2009 Arrivals Up 4.7%]. According to Purwa, despite record arrivals, the increase in average occupancy rates among Bali hotels has been very modest, reflecting the overall problem of the government's refusal to address supply-side issues. New hotel and villa permits are issued and new travel agencies are licensed without any effort on the government's part to protect existing travel operators. Admitting that the meetings, incentive, conference and exhibition business (MICE) continues apace and that more Chinese tourists flow to Bali, Purwa said the level of expenditure within the tourism sector is falling below expectations. To illustrate his complaint that the Bali tourism industry is less than "solid" the ASITA Chairman cited how Chinese guides handling that market demand high fees from travel agencies already laboring under the burden of narrow profit margins. Purwa also alluded to Macau and neighboring countries in the region that are prepared to subsidize tourism products and spend generously on promotion while Indonesia under spends badly in those areas. Lamenting the sad current state of affairs, Al Purwa is saddened by the fact that after trying to develop tourism for four decades, some 137,000 Balinese still live below the poverty line. Macau, on the other hand, has spent less than 10 years developing its tourism industry and manages to attract 20 million foreign tourists every year, a figure targeted by Macau to grow to 50 million within 5 years. Purwa is also critical of how tourism promotion funds are spent by Indonesia's Department of Culture and Tourism, saying how those fund's final use is not transparent and, as a result, difficult for tourism industry members to ascertain the effectiveness of current promotion programs. Asked Purwa, "Do we want to chase statistics or make tourism a means to improve the people's welfare?"
Bali Works to Halt Viral Arrivals
Arriving International Garuda Flights into Bali Now Being Disinfected by Airport Health Officials.
Beritabali.com reports that commencing from May 5, 2009, Health officials at Bali's International Airport have started spraying aerosol disinfectants inside the cabins of Garuda's international flights landing in Bali in the latest move to reduce the possibility of local contamination by the H1N1 Flu Virus. The first flight to undergo the disinfecting process was GA 871 landing on May 5th from Seoul Korea. Shortly after the plane landed, the 256 passengers on board were asked to remain in their seats while quarantine officials sprayed the entire interior cabin 3 times. Nyoman Murtiyasa, the Head of the Airport Health Office in Bali, said: "The effort to spray arriving aircraft was started in May 5th with planes from countries confirmed with the virus, such as Hong Kong and China, getting top priority. This will continue to take place at the Ngurah Rai Airport until the WHO says the threat of swine virus has passed."
Pak Legowo: Please Listen to the Governor
Editorial: The Governor's Recent Advice to Bali's Airport Management Make Sense. It's High Time the People of Bali Have a Larger Say in How the Island's Airport is Run.
A travel and tourism expert once suggested that every airport reflects, to some degree, the larger destination waiting the traveler beyond the airport's borders. And, just as the slick and ultra modern air hubs in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong blend almost seamlessly with those 21st century cities – the helter-skelter and modulated pandemonium encountered at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport also reflects daily life in nearby Kuta. Thus, the urgent need to improve first or final travel experience for Bali holidaymakers prompt us to give a resounding "thumbs up" to Bali's governor, Made Mangku Pastika, for his recent public statements demanding a dramatic rethink of design proposals under consideration for an expanded and modernized Bali airport. Governor Pastika has rejected the latest proposal for the revamped airport, considering them more of the "same old same old" of over commercialization, systemic inefficiency and a key destination facility that fails to reflect Balinese architectural values. Sadly, it's hard to argue with "Pak" Made on those counts. Angkasa Pura, the government company that manages the airport have proven themselves to be more concerned with increasing revenues than with enhancing the comfort of the traveling public. The list of the failing of Bali's airport is painfully long: • Eight or more desperate money changers shops scream frantically at arriving passengers, when one or two foreign exchange counters would be sufficient and more economically sustainable. • On occasion, aggressive real estate people offering shady "freehold" property deals to arriving tourists stop travelers while still in the customs area. And, this, in a country where such freehold land purchases by foreigners are strictly against the law. • Long immigration lines in poorly air conditioned areas can, at key periods of the day, see people waiting in line for more than one hour. • Poorly maintained toilets staffed by panhandling cleaning staff provide an odious welcome to Bali visitors. • Badly maintained luggage trolleys are positioned in the most distant corner of the baggage claim area, made cynically accessible only after running the gamut of an obstacle course of over-eager airport porters. • Teflon-coated uniformed security guards who, as reported by the local press, where recently caught red-handed in the act of pilfering items from passengers hand luggage, could not be prosecuted "due to the lack of a formal complaint" from an already departed passenger. • Restaurant concession extended with little or no reference to supply and demand flows or the dietary tendencies of the visitors' market mix. Those concession when granted, in many instances, are operated without any airport supervision ensuring safe, modern and hygienic food and beverage service. • Shops and restaurant leases granted on a "who-do-you-know-basis" that ignore any effort to created a sustainable proper balance of vendors offering a range of non-competing merchandise and services. • A surfeit reflexology salons, resulting in 50 or more people engaged in that business sector at the airport with little chance of earning a reasonable standard of living from rubbing the feet of tired travelers. Clearly, even the most basic skill-set possessed by the myriad of professional shopping mall managers found elsewhere in Indonesia is sorely lacking at Angkasa Pura - the government-owned company charged with running the nation's airport. While mall marketing managers have finely honed formulas that ensure a sustainable mix and variety of businesses that will provide for an enjoyable experience for the shopper and a reasonable expectation of profitability for tenants, this basic concept of commercial space management is an apparent mystery for those in charge at Bali's airport. Moreover, recent reports in the Bali press indicate that Heru Legowo, Angkasa Pura's manager in Bali, finds the governor advice and input bothersome, preferring instead to grow the amount of space set aside for shops, restaurants and foot massages a Bali's airport. He responds to critics by insisting his job is to maximize revenues for his employers. Heru's focus on immediate profits above all else also allows him to ignore the negative impact of his policies on Bali's reputations as a world class holiday destination. A Larger Issue at Play From our perspective, the current tug-of-war between Angkasa Pura and the Governor's office underlines the need for more local say in how Bali's airport is run. Recent changes in Indonesian legal and administrative structures intended to give people more control over their lives is a message with little meaning when it comes to the management and operation of the Nation's airports. Bali's airport, controlled by Jakarta which siphons off the hefty profits the airport generates each year, is without argument the single most important piece of infrastructure to the island's massive tourism industry. At the same time, the people of Bali and the stakeholders in local tourism have almost no voice in how the airport is run. Complaints and suggestions on what might be done to improve the airport are regularly published in Bali's press, only to be greeted with a polite smile and benign contempt, as evidenced by Mr. Legowo's response to recent suggestions from Governor Pastika. [See: Shopping Around for an Airport] Enough is Enough? It's time that Bali has a larger say in how its single most important gateway is managed and operated. At the very least, local political leaders and representatives of tourism stakeholders organization must be regularly consulted and asked for input on the future course of Bali's airport. And, when our governor speaks, the airport management must listen. In the final analysis, Mr. Legowo, the people of Bali are not the enemy; we're your neighbors.
Government Alcohol Import Tax Branded a Failure
Experts Tell the Government to Lower Taxes in Order to Close Down Black Markets, Increase Tax Revenues and Gain a Modicum of Control Over National Liquor Consumption Patterns.
The Monday, May 4, 2009 edition of the Jakarta Post reports that analysts have branded the current high import tax regime on alcoholic beverage as a policy failure that has "neither discouraged consumption nor maximized revenues" and, as many had predicted, has "fostered a thriving black market." Two scholars from Jakarta's prestigious Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Dionisius A. Narjoko and Teguh Yudo said current alcohol taxes of 500%, among the highest in the world, has "failed to bring about the optimal outcome of generating revenue and protecting public health." The two researchers have recommended to the government that the alcohol tax be reduced and any new tariff be based on alcoholic content as opposed to value. The current attempt by the government to tax the value of alcoholic beverages has fostered a system rife with misrepresentation and under-invoicing. Not surprisingly, the total tax revenue of only US$5.8 million collected in 2008 by the sole government importer underlines, according to the researchers, that a large black market exists in smuggled alcohol. Government estimates of the size of the black market is equivalent to 60% of all alcohol consumed and represents lost tax revenues of Rp. 1.5 trillion (US$1.3 billion). The report also suggests that high taxes do not curb alcohol consumption and, in fact, have been linked to increased usage of low-quality liquor that endangers human life. The government estimates that more than 60 people died from home-made liquor consumption in 2008. The CSIS report blamed a lack of government knowledge of the alcoholic beverage sector as being at the root of the failed importation policy which has made the Indonesian tourism sector non-competitive with other destinations in the region.
Higher Admission Rates at Kertha Gosa
Admission Rates More than Double at Bali's Hall of Justice Complex in Semarapura.
The Regency of Klungkung has recently ordered its tourism service to increase the admission price charged tourists entering the popular "Kertha Gosa – Hall of Justice" located in heart of Semarapura. Effective May 1, 2009, adults entering the ”Kerhta Gosa" complex must pay Rp. 12,000 (US$1.10) and Rp. 6,000 (US$0.55) for children. The new policy more than doubles the old admission price and applies equally to both domestic and foreign visitors. According to DenPost, the new pricing policy is meeting with some criticism from local tour guides who complain the admission price is the highest for any tourism object in Bali and higher than the Rp. 10,000 charged for people visiting Bali's Mother Temple of Besakih. Guide have also complained that their guests are now compelled to wear sarongs when entering Kertha Gosa, a policy questioned due to the fact that the complex is not generally considered sacred. The Kertha Gosa complex houses relics and buildings dating from one of Bali's great kingdoms and is composed of a Bale Kambang, the Kertha Gosa hall of justice and the Semara Jaya Museum..
Bali's Guiding Lights
Government Preparing Massive Sweeping Operations Against Illegal Guides Working in Bali.
The provincial tourism authority of Bali (Disparda) is pledging to get tough on unlicensed guides operating on the island and will soon dispatch enforcement teams to capture and prosecute illegal guides. The Chief of Bali tourism, Ida Bagus Kade Subhiksu, told Bisnis Bali that each enforcement team will be comprised of 14-15 persons drawn from his office, the Bali police, state prosecutors and related agencies. Insisting that his office is committed to cracking down on illegal guides but is keeping tight lipped on the specific dates and locations for the planned sweeping operation to apprehend errant guides. Subhiksu has, however, commented separately that the initial operations against illegal guides would focus initially on two regencies and one municipality: Badung, Gianyar and Denpasar. The head of the Badung regency tourism office, Drs. I Putu Budiasa, said he hoped the tourism offices of the respective regencies would be invited to join the enforcement teams in order to benefit from their local knowledge. Citing one example from his own jurisdiction, Budiasa said the sweeping teams need to move against unlicensed guides working at the Bali Museum in downtown Denpasar. His efforts to bring illegal guides in the past has been thwarted by the fact that only the provincial government has the legal authority to move again illegal guides operating within the regencies. Those wishing to qualify as licensed guides in Bali must be local residents, meet minimum educational standards, and successfully complete a series of training course provide by the province of Bali. There are currently an estimated 8,000 licensed guides living in Bali.
ASITA Calls on Garuda to Maintain 7% Commission Level
Travel Agents Reassess as Garuda Slowly But Surely Move Towards Non-Commissionable Airline Tickets.
Indonesian travel agents from the Association of Indonesian Travel Agents (ASITA) are calling on Garuda Indonesia to preserve the 7% commission they earn on airline ticket sales. Mangara Goeltom, representing ASITA, complained that recent changes by Garuda that allow passengers to purchase tickets on line and pay with their credit cards is costing travel agents business. Those still booking via travel agents can pay with their credit cards via the agencies who now only earn a 5% commission. Goeltom accepted that the changes in commission levels by Garuda is a function of the increasingly competitive environment faced by all airlines and the need to reduce costs wherever possible. Moreover, as Garuda moves towards 2010 and the introduction of the ASEAN Free Trade Area, airlines will completely stop paying commissions to travel agents. According to Bisnis Indonesia, Goeltom, who also serves as the Secretary of the Association of Indonesian Ticket Sales (ASPINDO), has managed to secure an additional 2% commission from Garuda permitting the current commission level to remain at 7%. Fearing for the future, Goeltom said that 90% of all Indonesian travel agents depend on ticket sales with only 10% selling tour packages. In the future only travel agents who are creative and create new tourism products will manage to survive.
Government Urged to Take Control of Taman Festival Bali.
Denpasar Legislator Wants Park Expropriated to Provide More Public Space and Eliminate A Public Eyesore.
The defunct Taman Festival Bali Park located near Sanur at Padang Galak is a blemish of the face of Bali's capital city of Denpasar, rendering one of the City's most picturesque beaches an eyesore. That's the opinion of the Chairman of Commission B of the Denpasar's House of Representatives (DPRD Kota Denpasar), I B Gede Udiyana. In comments reported in DenPost, Udiyana has joined fellow legislators calling for the Denpasar government to assume control of the abandoned and derelict amusement park and turn it into a public recreation spot. Admitting that legal title to the land may be unclear as discussions between the original investor and the government continue, Udiyana feels that fact alone should not deter the Denpasar government from assuming at least temporary possession of the park in order to remove what has become an embarrassment to Bali’s capital city. "It's better that the land be used for the public good than merely left idle," explained Udiyana. Udiyana also thinks a clean up and upgrade of the park that closed in 2000 need not cost large sums of money in order to make the land and remaining buildings useful for "space starved" residents of Bali's capital. Related Article [Crocodile Shock in Bali].
Pandora's Box is Black
Indonesia's Transportation Manager Wants Flight Black Box Information Barred from Use in Criminal Courts.
Indonesia's Minister of Transportation, Jusman Syafii Djamal, has joined the debate set off by a strike threat by Indonesian pilots unhappy with the use of cockpit voice recorders (CVR) and flight data recorders (FDR) in the recent manslaughter conviction of a Garuda pilot. As reported in Bisnis Indonesia, Jusman sees the use of CVRs and FDRs as violating Indonesia's Aviation Law of 2009 and Annex 13 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) governing the investigation of air accidents. The Transportation Minister made his comments in connection with the use of the "black box" of the Garuda B-737 in the recent conviction of Captain Marwoto Komar. Captain Marwoto was in the left-hand seat of GA 200 that crashed when landing in Yogyakarta on March 7, 2007, killing 21 people. According to Jusman, the contents of the CVR, FDR and all the findings of the National Safety Board Team (KNKT) are not admissible as evidence in a criminal proceeding. Because of this, the Minister hopes Marwoto's conviction will be overturned and that the pilot's lawyers will work hard to compel the judges to honor Indonesia's commitment as a member of ICAO. The Minister told the press that pilots should be brought before a professional board of review for any technical shortcomings. If the KNKT uncovers evidence of criminal negligence, only then should that information be forwarded to police and state prosecutors. Related Article [Indonesia Pilots Threatening Strike Action].
The Rich Fabric of Life in Sikka, Flores.
Beyond Bali: The Talented Lady Weavers of Watublapi, Sikka, Flores.
On a recent visit to the island of Flores, a spectacular island in East Nusa Tenggara chain, we were treated to a warm welcome by the talented women of Watublapi Village, a hillside community of traditional ikat weavers in the Sikka region, near Flores’ largest city of Maumere.
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The hand-spun cotton threads, dyed in organic compounds and woven on traditional back looms are among the most highly prized traditional textiles to be found anywhere in the world. Increasingly rare, these cloths now fetch high prices and are found in leading museums and private textile collections. During our visit we were welcomed by the women and men of Watublapi with home-grown coffee, local tobacco and lively dances. Later, the ladies demonstrated the step-by-step production process of their fine ikats and allowed us to admire their traditional beads and bracelets made from antique ivory. Shown on balidiscovery.com are some pictures taken during that visit.
Dutch Tourist Isolated in Bali with H1N1 Symptoms
32-Year-Old Dutch Woman With "Flu-Like" Symptoms Removed from Arriving Malaysian Airlines Flight and Placed in Isolation Pending Further Tests.
A 32-year-old Dutch woman is now in the special isolation ward of Bali's Sanglah General Hospital after health officers identified her as a potential H1N1 sufferer when she landed at Bali's international airport off a Malaysian Airline flight on Sunday, May 10, 2009. The woman, Michele Van Dorsen, was running a mild fever, experiencing problems swallowing, and complaining of respiratory difficulties - all of which resulted in her classification by health officials as someone suffering from an Influenza-Like Illness. A number of well-rehearsed measures were immediately put into place that saw the woman placed in an isolation area at the airport from where she was transferred by ambulance to the Nusa Indah isolation unit at Sanglah Hospital. The woman's transfer was carried out in a specially equipped ambulance with the driver and all accompanying medical personnel fully suited in protective contamination gear. According to press reports, Van Dorsen began her trip from Amsterdam, transiting briefly in Kuala Lumpur where she changed aircraft. Her health condition first became evident on board her flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bali, causing the pilot to radio ahead to Bali As a result, a medical team came on board the aircraft immediately after landing to commence the assesment, care and isolation of the ill passenger. Van Dorsen told health officials that she has had no known contact with a H1N1 sufferer. Her condition is stated as "good" by her attending physicians who, as an added precaution, have administered Tamiflu while awaiting the results of medical tests to confirm whether or not she is affected by the H1N1 virus. As an added precaution to prevent the spread of disease, all passengers sitting within several rows of Van Dorsen have undergone close medical evaluation. Holland, the country from which Van Dorsen began her journey is listed as "endemic" with confirmed cases of H1N1 reported by Dutch health officials.
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