Indonesia holds cabinet meeting in Bali as volcano threatens tourism

Tourists take photos of the Mount Agung volcano during a sunrise in Kintamani, Bali, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (AP)
Updated 22 December 2017
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Indonesia holds cabinet meeting in Bali as volcano threatens tourism

JAKARTA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo will on Friday hold his cabinet meeting on the holiday island of Bali in a bid to reassure visitors that there is nothing to worry about from the rumbling Mount Agung volcano.
Authorities last month raised the alert status of Mount Agung in northeastern Bali to the highest level, imposing an exclusion zone of up to 10 km (6 miles) around its crater as it spewed clouds of ash, steam, and other volcanic material.
Widodo will take the unusual step of gathering his cabinet in Bali as part of government efforts to assure visitors that the island is safe to come to and to stave off a major drop off in visitor numbers during the upcoming holiday season.
“For those who have plans to vacation in Bali, there’s no need to doubt or be worried about the status of Mount Agung, Bali is very safe to visit,” Energy Minister Ignasius Jonan said in a Twitter message after visiting an observatory overlooking the volcano, before the cabinet meeting.
President Widodo is expected to make a statement after the cabinet meeting.
The cabinet usually meets at the state palace in the capital Jakarta or on its outskirts in Bogor.
The relatively small island of Bali, famous for its beaches and temples, has an outsized importance for Indonesian tourism. In January-September, Bali received 4.5 million foreign tourist arrivals, nearly half of the 10.5 million arrivals in Indonesia.
Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said this week that Indonesia was expecting an estimated 15 trillion rupiah ($1.11 billion) in lost income and around 1 million fewer tourists because of the volcano, according to daily newspaper Kompas.
Many business operators and hotels have seen cancelations since authorities first raised the alert in September, and most expect the holiday season to be slower than in previous years.
Thousands of tourists were left stranded late last month when a volcanic ash cloud forced the closure of Bali’s airport for several days.
Countries like Australia and Singapore have advised their citizens to be cautious when traveling to Bali.


Mass tourism threatens Croatia’s ‘Game of Thrones’ town

Updated 21 September 2018
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Mass tourism threatens Croatia’s ‘Game of Thrones’ town

DUBROVNIK, Croatia: Marc van Bloemen has lived in the old town of Dubrovnik, a Croatian citadel widely praised as the jewel of the Adriatic, for decades, since he was a child. He says it used to be a privilege. Now it’s a nightmare.
Crowds of tourists clog the entrances to the ancient walled city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as huge cruise ships unload thousands more daily. People bump into each other on the famous limestone-paved Stradun, the pedestrian street lined with medieval churches and palaces, as fans of the popular TV series “Game of Thrones” search for the locations where it was filmed.
Dubrovnik is a prime example of the effects of mass tourism, a global phenomenon in which the increase in people traveling means standout sites — particularly small ones — get overwhelmed by crowds. As the numbers of visitors keeps rising, local authorities are looking for ways to keep the throngs from killing off the town’s charm.
“It’s beyond belief, it’s like living in the middle of Disneyland,” says van Bloemen from his house overlooking the bustling Old Harbor in the shadows of the stone city walls.
On a typical day there are about eight cruise ships visiting this town of 2,500 people, each dumping some 2,000 tourists into the streets. He recalls one day when 13 ships anchored here.
“We feel sorry for ourselves, but also for them (the tourists) because they can’t feel the town anymore because they are knocking into other tourists,” he said. “It’s chaos, the whole thing is chaos.”
The problem is hurting Dubrovnik’s reputation. UNESCO warned last year that the city’s world heritage title was at risk because of the surge in tourist numbers.
The popular Discoverer travel blog recently wrote that a visit to the historic town “is a highlight of any Croatian vacation, but the crowds that pack its narrow streets and passageways don’t make for a quality visitor experience.”
It said that the extra attention the city gets from being a filming location for “Game of Thrones” combines with the cruise ship arrivals to create “a problem of epic proportions.”
It advises travelers to visit other quaint old towns nearby: “Instead of trying to be one of the lucky ones who gets a ticket to Dubrovnik’s sites, try the delightful town of Ohrid in nearby Macedonia.”
In 2017, local authorities announced a “Respect the City” plan that limits the number of tourists from cruise ships to a maximum of 4,000 at any one time during the day. The plan still has to be implemented, however.
“We are aware of the crowds,” said Romana Vlasic, the head of the town’s tourist board.
But while on the one hand she pledged to curb the number of visitors, Vlasic noted with some satisfaction that this season in Dubrovnik “is really good with a slight increase in numbers.” The success of the Croatian national soccer team at this summer’s World Cup, where it reached the final, helped bring new tourists new tourists.
Vlasic said that over 800,000 tourists visited Dubrovnik since the start of the year, a 6 percent increase from the same period last year. Overnight stays were up 4 percent to 3 million.
The cruise ships pay the city harbor docking fees, but the local businesses get very little money from the visitors, who have all-inclusive packages on board the ship and spend very little on local restaurants or shops.
Krunoslav Djuricic, who plays his electric guitar at Pile, one of the two main entrances of Dubrovnik’s walled city, sees the crowds pass by him all day and believes that “mass tourism might not be what we really need.”
The tourists disembarking from the cruise ships have only a few hours to visit the city, meaning they often rush around to see the sites and take selfies to post to social media.
“We have crowds of people who are simply running,” Djuricic says. “Where are these people running to?“