By William J. Furney
The Bali Times
SEMINYAK ~ Qatar Airways flew into Bali on its inaugural flight on Wednesday, the first Middle Eastern airline to open a route to the island, while the worldâ€™s second-biggest retailer is about to unveil its first hypermarket here, describing the economy as â€œpromising.â€
Unemployment Seen Dropping by 55%
Meanwhile, the central bank predicted this week that soaring investor confidence would cut island-wide unemployment by a startling 55 percent.
The more than 120,000 people listed as unemployed last year is projected to drop to just over 65,000 this year as more people take advantage of work opportunities afforded them by new employers, according to Bank Indonesiaâ€™s Bali office.
Doha-based Qatar Airways, currently expanding its global route network, said it decided to fly here because of the islandâ€™s rising appeal as a destination not only for leisure, but also for business.
â€œBali has significance as an international tourist destination. The island is also increasingly being used as a place to do business â€“ itâ€™s now the second most prominent place in Indonesia to do business, next to Jakarta, which we also fly to,â€ airline chief
Akbar Al Baker told The Bali Times.
Bali was a significant additional to the rapidly growing carrierâ€™s network, said Al Baker, who is also chairman of the Qatar Tourism Authority.
â€œBy adding Bali to our route network, Qatar Airways becomes the first carrier in the Middle East to fly to this tropical island. Not only does this establish an important connection between the Middle East region and Bali, but also passengers coming from Europe and North Africa benefit.â€
Al Baker said initial bookings to Bali, whose vital tourism industry stands to significantly benefit from the new route, were good, adding: â€œWe are very satisfied with the initial response to this route.
â€œBali is a very interesting destination for tourists from the GCC,â€ he said, referring to the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf that groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
â€œWith the economies in the GCC rapidly expanding, convenient travel options are becoming vital for many of the region’s leisure travelers. GCC nationals love holiday packages to the Far East and Qatar Airways Holidays section has very attractive packages for holidaymakers from the GCC.â€
Doha, he said, was â€œgrowing in prominence as a regional hub, feeding passenger traffic from Europe, Africa and the Middle East, through the Gulf States and beyond, which will increasingly benefit the tourism industry in Bali.
â€œFurther, Qatar Airways’ with its new fleet of aircraft and excellent service onboard, is able to attract passengers from GCC to fly Qatar Airways to Bali. The media from Qatar, on the inaugural flight to Bali, will certainly highlight the tourist interests in Bali and promote the destination even further with their attractive features in the newspapers in Doha on return from Bali.â€
Al Baker said he was heartened by Baliâ€™s swift bounce-back from recent troubles and that the carrier could contribute to the islandâ€™s expanding fortunes.
â€œObviously, Bali has faced tremendous challenges in the past, but its resilience is to be commended. Qatar Airways is looking forward to playing its part in bringing in tourist dollars to this tropical paradise. Bali has always been seen as a holiday destination. I believe it will continue to be seen in this way,â€ he said.
The Qatar national airline, which is now flying four times a week to Bali, was not put off by the mushrooming numbers of budget carriers in the region.
â€œQatar Airways prides itself on the supreme quality of its services and what we offer in terms of a travel experience,â€ said Al Baker.
Meanwhile, another new arrival in Bali is also upbeat on prospects for the island.
â€œWe view that the investment climate in Bali is promising, and so we decided to make an investment, Irawan Kadarman, director of corporate affairs at Franceâ€™s Carrefour, told The Bali Times of the companyâ€™s new store in Kuta in which it invested Rp120 billion (US$13.1 million) [P4: Carrefour Sees Its Arrival â€˜Reenergizing Local Economyâ€™]