Bali blames ‘competitors’ for spreading hoax, overhyping threat of volcanic eruption

Mount Agung. Photo: DEZALB/Pixabay
Mount Agung. Photo: DEZALB/Pixabay

Slow business in Bali is getting blamed on “smear campaigns” from similar destinations competing for the same tourists.

Bali’s seen a major downturn in tourism in recent months since the island’s Mount Agung volcano started acting up in September and began letting out smoke with minor eruptions in November. The economy’s been hit so bad that losses are estimated by the national government to reach up to IDR9 trillion (US$670 million).

While the volcano poses minimal to virtually no threat to tourists visiting Bali (unless they’re doing stupid stuff like this), competing destinations are spreading hoaxes, over-dramatizing the danger of Mount Agung, claims the Bali Provincial government.

“Countries of our competitors who have the same tourism potential almost every day spread (hoax stories), damaging our image,” head of Bali Development Planning Agency (Bappeda) I Putu Astawa said in Sanur on Monday.

Unfortunately Astawa did not provide any solid examples of such smear campaigns, though “Wonderful Indonesia” has previously identified “Malaysia Truly Asia” and “Amazing Thailand” as its two biggest Southeast Asian rivals in the international tourism market. 

According to Astawa, the only way for Bali to fight all the hoax news is for the province to do a better job spreading accurate information, that Bali is safe to visit and the condition of Mount Agung is getting better.

“We must counter them to give the real explanation of what is happening. In fact, activity is now decreasing from Mount Agung,” Astawa said, as quoted by Kompas.

While Mount Agung does remain at the highest alert (level VI) for an eruption, the alert level only refers to the danger zone set from the volcano’s crater. And while the danger zone had been set at a radius of eight to 10 kilometers from the crater since Nov. 27, just last Thursday, the zone was reduced to a six kilometer radius, allowing thousands of evacuees to return to their homes that are no longer in the danger zone.

Given that Mount Agung is all the way in East Bali’s Karangasem, 75 kilometers from the tourist hub of Kuta, visitors staying in Bali’s most-frequented tourist areas would be far from any danger from the volcano—the only thing they would have to really worry about is if ash were to be spewed into the airport’s flight path, affecting flights and travel plans—which did happen in November, causing a nearly three-day shutdown, much to the detriment of those unable to get trip insurance after the Bali volcano became a “known event.” 

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