Disasters rock Indonesia’s ‘10 New Balis’ tourism push

This aerial picture taken on December 24, 2018 shows a damaged resort hotel in Tanjung Lesung, Banten province, two days after a tsunami hit the west coast of Indonesia’s Java island. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019
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Disasters rock Indonesia’s ‘10 New Balis’ tourism push

  • About 42 percent of Indonesia’s 14 million foreign tourists headed to the popular resort island of Bali last year, giving a $17 billion boost to Southeast Asia’s biggest economy
  • Lombok, next to Bali, was rocked by earthquakes in the summer that killed more than 500 and sparked a mass exodus of foreigners from the tropical paradise

TANJUNG LESUNG, Indonesia: Picture-postcard Tanjung Lesung was a cornerstone of Indonesia’s bid to supercharge its tourism industry, boasting palm-fringed beaches, a towering volcano in the middle of turquoise waters and a rainforest sanctuary for endangered Javan rhinos.
But the beachside town now lies in ruins, pummelled by a deadly tsunami that has raised fresh questions about disaster preparedness and the future of a multi-billion-dollar push to replicate Bali’s success across the Southeast Asian archipelago.
The shattered community was hosting a pop concert when the waves crashed ashore last month, at night and without warning.
Several members of the Indonesian band Seventeen and more than 100 others at the Tanjung Lesung Beach Hotel were killed — about a quarter of those who died in the volcano-triggered tsunami.
A clutch of other area hotels was also devastated, with beachside cottages flattened and debris — chairs, tables and the band’s audio equipment — scattered everywhere.
Tourism minister Arief Yahya, who ordered that the town be rebuilt in six months, brushed aside concerns sparked by the tsunami — which was triggered by a sudden eruption of the Anak Krakatoa volcano.
“Disasters can happen anywhere in Indonesia,” he told AFP during a recent visit there.
“We need to have (tsunami) early warning systems, especially in tourist destinations. We’re going to make that happen.”
But some are less convinced, especially since disaster monitors became aware of the killer waves after they had already smashed into the coastline along western Java and southern Sumatra.
“It’s going to be even more difficult to promote (the area), especially now that buildings are destroyed and the volcano is more active,” said Tedjo Iskandar, a Jakarta-based travel analyst.
About 42 percent of Indonesia’s 14 million foreign tourists headed to the popular resort island of Bali last year, giving a $17 billion boost to Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
The government picked Tanjung Lesung and nine other locations as part of its “10 New Balis” strategy, a plan unveiled in 2016 with an eye to courting Chinese, Singaporean and other investors as its pushes to hit 20 million tourists annually.
The list includes ancient Buddhist and Hindu temples, tropical islands near Jakarta, the Mount Bromo volcano in eastern Java, and a national park that is home to Komodo dragons — the world’s biggest lizard.
But the killer tsunami has dealt a blow to plans to pump some $4 billion into Tanjung Lesung.
And it is not the only spot in the government’s tourism plan to suffer a disaster — natural or man-made — that could scare away tourists.
Lombok, next to Bali, was rocked by earthquakes in the summer that killed more than 500 and sparked a mass exodus of foreigners from the tropical paradise.
That was weeks after Lake Toba on Sumatra island — also on the “New Bali” list — was the scene of a ferry accident that left almost 200 people missing or dead.
In May, Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya was hit by suicide bombings carried about by Islamist extremists, while Bali was rocked as the Mount Agung blew its top at the end of 2017.
The volcano is 75 kilometers (45 miles) away from tourist areas and the eruption posed little danger to visitors, but it still left hundreds of thousands stranded as flights were canceled.
Indonesia’s upbeat tourism numbers plunged in the second half of 2018 after the Lombok quakes, a quake-tsunami disaster on Sulawesi island that killed thousands, and a Lion Air plane crash in October which killed all 189 people on board.
Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth, straddling the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.
And the frequent disasters it has suffered recently have highlighted the country’s woeful state of preparedness.
Early warning systems in the city of Palu on Sulawesi — and elsewhere — had not been working since 2012 because of budget shortfalls and bureaucratic bungling.
In the latest disaster in the Sunda Strait, Indonesian monitors initially said there was no tsunami threat at all. They were later forced to issue a correction and an apology, pointing to a lack of early warning systems for the high death toll.
Jakarta’s tourism push may still have a chance, but only if it gets serious about safety, said I Ketut Ardana, head of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies’ Bali office.
“The (government) needs to better inform locals and tourists so they’re prepared when a disaster strikes,” he said.


Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

Updated 28 min 11 sec ago
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Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

  • Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately
  • Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong pressed on Sunday past the designated end point for a march in which tens of thousands repeated demands for direct elections in the Chinese territory and an independent investigation into police tactics used in previous demonstrations.

Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately. Others continued toward Central, a key business and retail district and the site of the 2014 Umbrella Movement sit-ins.

Large protests began last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the bill dead, but protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the bill. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in city.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, and was promised certain democratic freedoms under the framework of 'one country, two systems.' Fueled by anger at Lam and an enduring distrust of the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing, the demonstrations have ballooned into calls for electoral reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Walking in sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black kicked off Sunday’s march from a public park, carrying a large banner that read 'Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law.' 'Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!' the protesters chanted, forming a dense procession through Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district as they were joined by others who had been waiting in side streets.

“I think the government has never responded to our demands,” said Karen Yu, a 52-year-old Hong Kong resident who has attended four protests since last month. “No matter how much the government can do, at least it should come out and respond to us directly.”

Marchers ignored orders from police to finish off the procession on a road in Wan Chai, according to police and the Civil Human Rights Front, the march’s organizers. Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month.

Their main demands include universal suffrage — direct voting rights for all Hong Kong residents — as well as dropping charges against anti-extradition protesters, withdrawing the characterization of a clash between police and protesters as a 'riot' and dissolving the Legislative Council.                   

Protesters read the demands aloud in both English and Cantonese in videos released Saturday. “We did not want to embark on this path of resisting tyranny with our bare bodies,” they said, “but for too long, our government has lied and deceived, and refused to respond to the demands of the people.”

While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district last Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows.

Meanwhile, police officers have used pepper spray, tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to quell the crowds.On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building.

Materials voicing opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the investigation was continuing.