Indonesia’s Tourism Minister has issued a set of instructions about how passengers stranded by Bali’s smoking Mount Agung volcano should be accommodated, including the issuance of room discounts and visa extensions for those who need them.
Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport went in to a 24-hour closure, effective at 7am on Monday morning after Mount Agung spewed ash three kilometers into the sky and the volcano’s alert level was raised to the highest level the same day. Over 100,000 local residents are believed to have evacuated from inside the newly extended danger zone of eight to 10 kilometers from the volcano’s crater and residents are cautioned to watch out for dangerous “so-called” cold lava flows and stay away from river channels.
While the volcano is located in Karangasem, far from the tourist hub of Kuta (about 75 kilometers), more than 5,000 estimated travelers are #stuckinBali as a result of the temporary airport shutdown and volcanologists fear a larger eruption could be on the horizon.
Consequently, Indonesian Tourism Minister Arief Yahya released a statement on Monday morning, calling on hotels to offer a 50 percent discount to travelers stuck in Bali, meant to fly out on Monday.
“For all passengers subject to a flight cancellation, forced to check back into hotels, they should be given a special rate, such as a 50 percent discount,” Yahya stated.
In response to the minister’s request, Bali’s Tourism Office has done even better. Stranded travelers will be offered a free additional night if they were staying at an Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) member the night previous to the airport shutdown (aka Sunday night) and were due to check out Monday because of an outbound flight, reads an official PHRI notice.
“PHRI’s friends have responded, already giving one free night to tourists who cannot continue their journey from Bali due to Mount Agung,” tourism office head, Anak Agung Gede Yuniartha, said on Monday, as quoted by Detik.
In addition to accommodation matters, the minister also addressed airline fees and visitors’ visas.
“Airlines, especially low-cost ones, should not charge flight cancellation fees or a rescheduling charge because this is not the traveler’s fault, it’s because a force majeure that could not be avoided,” the minister advised.
And as for the visa, he said: “If a passenger’s visa has expired, they should be automatically given a one-month extension. Please, make it convenient and comfortable for taking care of their visas.”
However, travelers are advised to check in with their airlines if their visas are due to expire during the airport shutdown, as a notice from airport manager Angkasa Pura asserts that passengers need to get a Surat Permohonan or permission letter from their airline, so as not to have to pay an overstay fee.
Yahya says he hopes the ministry can do everything within its powers to still offer tourists to Bali a “comfortable” experience despite the circumstances.
“We encourage that both foreign and domestic tourists are given comfort because they are already experiencing enough stress from being ‘stranded’ due to flight cancellations. We want to give a sympathetic impression, so their holiday memories in Bali aren’t tainted due to stress or disappointment and that they will return,” Yahya stated.