BHA Blasts Aussies Over ‘Travel Warning’

BHA chairman Jean-Charles Le Coz: The Australian media got it wrong.

LEGIAN ~ Bali’s powerful hotel association has strongly criticised the Australian media for blowing up a reworded government travel advisory for Bali – about Nyepi, Bali’s annual Silent Day, on March 16 this year – as an “upgraded travel warning” relating to terrorism.

Bali Hotels Association (BHA) 2010 chairman Jean-Charles Le Coz, general manager of the Nikko at Nusa Dua, said media in Australia needed to be more aware of the issues – and to read the material from which it was quoting before printing or broadcasting stories based on it.

“This statement is not related with the level of security or threat that Bali may experience. It is only an update on an event that happens yearly,” Le Coz said in a statement issued by the BHA on Wednesday.

“We are disappointed to read that this somehow normal information has been relayed in the Australian press as a ‘Travel Warning.’

“We can only deplore, as we have done so for the last couple of years, that the Australian travel warning system relays information that is often linked to hearsay, is not location specific and most importantly that each time new information (regardless of its importance to security) is posted, it pops-up as a ‘change in travel warning’, every time replicating fears that are not founded.”

Le Coz said the current situation in Bali had not changed and that security measures that had been in place for two years were constantly monitored, audited and reviewed.

“Tight and regular cooperation with police and other security and safety related agencies ensure that BHA member hotels and guests are well protected; security and safety standards of  BHA hotels are among the highest on the island and serve as the basis of numerous safety and security policies in Indonesia and other parts of Asia,” he said.

The alarm over the misinterpreted Australian travel advice follows posting on New Year’s Eve on the American embassy website in Jakarta of a “warning” about imminent terrorist activity, which the embassy said had come from Governor I Made Mangku Pastika.

National airline Garuda said this week some of its Australian passengers had cancelled flights to Bali in response to the American warning.

The “risk of an immediate terrorist attack” cited in the American warning was widely reported in Australia. Garuda’s Denpasar general manager Bagus Y Siregar, who is also the airline’s area manager for New South Wales in Australia, said:

“I happened to be in Australia. The issue received widespread attention and, in fact, it was repeatedly aired by ABC television.”

The television network had attributed the news to Governor Pastika, which had contributed to its credibility among Australians, he said.

“On that day we were really worried and many Australians believed it. A number of Australian tourists to Bali cancelled their scheduled departures as a result.”

The reports had also caused widespread concern among Bali tourism operators.

“We urge all parties to really careful in issuing statements,” said Siregar. “Bali tourism is very sensitive to security issues. Government and society should protect the interests of Bali and not promote panic.”

The reissued Australian travel advisory was circulated on Wednesday, the same day Garuda launched a new programme of cut-price fares between Australia and Bali in a bid to boost tourist travel.

‘We can only deplore that the Australian travel warning system relays information that is often linked to hearsay’ – Jean-Charles Le Coz

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