London, Oct. 13 (Reuters): The picture postcard tourist paradise of Bali could take years to recover from the carnage wreaked by two devastating explosions in the beach resort of Kuta, travel agents predicted.
Drawing comparisons with a Muslim militant attack in Egypt’s Nile resort of Luxor five years ago, British agents said tour operators would scale down operations in Bali in the immediate future and the full impact of the attacks could last much longer.
“It will take a couple of years to get back to normal,” said Keith Betton, spokesman for the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Other tour operators said it was too early to tell what effect the bombings would have on tourism in Bali.
“Some travellers will naturally go out and cancel their travels to Bali on Monday,” said Robin Zimmermann, spokesman for Europe’s biggest travel group TUI AG of Germany. “But...there is a process of getting back to normal after a certain time.”
Zimmerman said TUI had decided not to send any customers to Bali for week as a precautionary measure.
“We are breaking the contract with our clients,” Zimmermann said. “We are doing this as a measure until the foreign ministry issues guidance.”
Markus Ruediger, spokesman for Thomas Cook AG, the European travel giant, said measuring the impact on travel to Bali would take more time.
Ruediger said his company had so far not received a flood of requests from its approximately 500 customers on Bali who wanted to return home.
“At the moment it’s too early to say who will be flown out,” he said. “...We’re in contact with the foreign affairs ministry and we’ll decide about further flights to Bali in the next 24 to 36 hours.”
Switzerland’s biggest tour operator, Kuoni, said it was not taking Bali off its list of destinations, pending further information.
Kuoni would allow its customers to cancel trips to Bali without penalty while the 81 of its customers on the island could return early without additional costs, a spokesman said.
British tour operators said they were heeding foreign office advice against travelling to Bali in the wake of the attacks which killed at least 182 people and injured hundreds more.
“They will certainly be downscaling their operations in Bali, because clearly for a while it’s going to suffer from an image problem,” Betton said.
Bali, one of the world’s most popular destinations, attracts everyone from jet-setters to student backpackers, especially from Australia, its reputation as a safe haven from a violent world has been shattered by the weekend blasts.
“What I’ve heard from one or two people is October 12 is the new September 11,” said Simon Calder, travel writer on London’s Independent newspaper.
“People are thinking if tourists are targets for terrorists in places like Bali, then where in the world is safe' The short answer is these days nobody can be sure,” Calder said.