Jakarta. Indonesia expects to lose Rp 9 trillion — around $665 million — in tourism revenue from Bali's Mount Agung eruption that so far has shown no signs of abating, a minister said on Wednesday (29/11).
Around one million international visitors are expected to cancel their holiday trips to the popular resort island during the end-0f-year peak season, forcing airlines, hotels and tour operators to seek alternative ways to recoup income.
Bali, the Island of the Gods, is still the most popular tourist destination in Indonesia, attracting 40 percent of all international visitors to the country.
"We may lose up to Rp 9 trillion [in tourism revenue] until the end of the year, almost Rp 250 billion every day," Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said.
Last year, Indonesia attracted a total of 12 million international visitors, who injected Rp 184 trillion to the local economy.
Arief said he had requested the Transportation Ministry to change its air travel regulations to allow airlines to reschedule or reroute flights during the volcanic eruption without having to incur additional costs.
In the first nine months of this year, Indonesia attracted 10.46 million international visitors, most of whom traveled to the country by air.
Hotel operators said a lot of bookings have been canceled by visitors fearing the Mount Agung eruption will only get worse.
Volcanic ash from the eruption has already forced airport shutdowns in Bali and Lombok. Other airports in Central Java also had to be closed because of cyclone Cempaka. A total of 196 international flights were canceled in just a couple of days.
"We are always worried by volcanic eruptions, simply because we experience many of them," Yogyakarta's Gajah Mada University (UGM) aviation expert Arista Atmadjati said.
President Joko "Jokowi" — whose administration has given a big push for the tourism industry — has instructed officials to do their best for travelers stranded in Bali.
"Serve them well. Don't let them get stuck in Bali just because the airport is closed," Jokowi said.
Authorities have asked hotels to offer free overnight stay for travelers who had their flights canceled because of the airport shutdowns.
Bali Governor I Mangku Prastika also advised hotels to offer discounted rates for tourists who opt to prolong their stay on the island while they wait for its airport to reopen.
Popular accommodation booking service Airbnb has responded to the governor's call.
"Airbnb has talked to more than 13,500 of our hosts and guests in the impacted region, reminding our community to follow the direction of local officials and providing information on how guests can modify or cancel reservations," an Airbnb spokesman told the Jakarta Globe.
Airbnb had earlier also activated its disaster response alert, encouraging hosts to open their doors to residents and volunteers in need of urgent accommodation. The program has ended but some of its hosts will still open their accommodations for emergencies.