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DENPASAR - Since the terror bombings that killed nearly 200 people and destroyed his Paddy's bar, Kadek Wiranatha has closed two hotels and put off the launch of Bali's first airline. His Bounty Hotel remains open, but employees say their earnings have been halved by the absence of tipping tourists.
"This is my worst nightmare," said Wiranatha, who employs 2,500 people across this Indonesian island. "I'm losing a lot. We're talking about millions of dollars. Sooner or later, we will go bankrupt if there is no help from the outside."
Bali's tourist trade has been devastated by the Oct. 12 bombings, which Indonesian authorities blamed on a militant Islamic group with ties to al-Qaida. Most of the 192 dead were foreigners, and Western nations have warned citizens against visiting the island.
Beaches and shops are nearly empty much of the time and hotel occupancy rates have plummeted from 70 percent to about 10 percent. That's a severe blow for an island whose economy is dominated by tourism. The Muslim holiday of Eid Il-Fitr in early December, Christmas and New Year's have given the industry a brief reprieve, filling some hotels to capacity, operators say.
But many of the island's 3.2 million people fear they will soon face layoffs, business closures and social unrest. "We are going to see hard times," said Meity Robot, president of the Association of Indonesian Tourist and Travel Agencies. As many as 200,000 people could lose their jobs, Indonesia's government estimates. As a result, it has lowered next year's expected economic growth for the entire country to 4 percent from 5 percent.
In the past two decades, Bali has recast itself from a sleepy, offbeat island favored by backpackers and surfers to a tourist mecca for honeymooners, college kids and middle class families. The tourists -- mostly Australians and Japanese -- come for the beaches, nightlife and the temples dotting the predominantly Hindu island.
The neighborhood of Kuta, where the bombings and resulting fires destroyed dozens of shops and homes, normally would be hectic this time of year, with tourists crowding sidewalks, jamming into souvenir shops and mingling in bars and restaurants. But idle workers outnumber the occasional visitors and shop signs advertise steep discounts. The only action is near the blast site, where workers are renovating a surf shop, a bank and an art gallery.
Nyoman Mari, the 48-year-old shopkeeper, says she goes days without seeing a customer and her income since the attack has dropped from the equivalent of about $35 a day to less than $3. "It's hard when you go through a day without selling anything," she said. "Before, I never thought about money. But now I've got to think about everything. I'm cutting the phone cost, electricity cost and even my meals."
Across the road at the Bounty Hotel, occupancy rates are about 9 percent. Employees say they have had to sell possessions and cut back on spending. "It's really difficult," said Ketut Karma, 29, a maid who must feed his two children, wife and mother on $15.75 a month. "The salary is so little that I can't eat," he said. "I've got no money for gas. I've got no money to pay off loans that I took out to build my house. I'm afraid the bank will take my motorcycle and then I won't be able to get to work."
Many companies have heeded calls from the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association to pay employees through February. But others say government rules requiring ministerial approval and months of severance pay for laid-off employees have forced them to keep full staffs.
"It's crazy," said Wiranatha, the owner of Paddy's. "The government should be realistic. Let's say we are talking about Paddy's. Two months ago, Paddy's was there. Now, there is no Paddy's. There is not even a building. What do you want me to do with the staff? I can't keep employing them."
Indonesia is trying to woo back foreigners with a multimillion-dollar promotional campaign, discounted tour packages and increased security at the airport and hotels. But the push has been blunted by the travel warnings, especially from Australia.
"We are all committed to bringing Bali back," said I Gde Pitana, director of the Bali Tourism Authority. "These bombs will be a turning point for Bali and we are going to use them to make Bali better ... We still have the beautiful scenery, nice beaches and friendly people."



Posted in Terrorism @ 26 December 2002 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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