Volcano panic blown out of proportion, Indonesia’s tourism players say

Some key tourist spots lie safe outside the affected zone

Tourism stakeholders in Indonesia are downplaying what some say to be unwarranted fears over volcanic activity in the country.

Amid concern surrounding activity at Mount Agung in Bali, another volcano in Karo district, North Sumatra, erupted last Thursday, spewing a column of volcanic ashes 2,000m high, followed by tremors and ashes scattered 1,500m down to the south and 2,000m to the east and southeast of the mountain slopes.

Some key tourist spots lie safe outside the affected zone

No casualty was reported during the eruption which took at 02.45 local time.

Further downplaying the situation, spokesperson of the National Disaster Management Agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said: “The (local) people are used to witnessing Mount Sinabung’s eruptions since the mountain was declared high alert in June 2015. It has erupted since then.”

Sutopo however advised locals and travellers to refrain from any activities within a three-kilometre radius from the top, and also warned people living and having activities around the rivers with the headwaters at the mountain to watch out for lava floods in rainy weather.

Mount Sinabung had been dormant for 1,200 years before starting to erupt in the 2010 to 2011 period, and again in 2013.

Meanwhile, on the situation in Bali, Herman Hoven, general manager of Khiri Travel Indonesia, said reports and social media comments have “created an unwarranted fear factor while the situation on the ground in Bali remains calm and tourism operators remain fully open for business”.

“There has been no explosion. There may never be. And the vast majority of Bali’s tourism activities take place between 30 and 60km from Mount Agung, at a safe distance,” he said.

Ubud is 30km from Mount Agung and 55km from Denpasar – both comfortably beyond the Balinese government’s current 12km exclusion radius around the volcano, according to a Khiri statement.

And while travel advisories admit that volcanic ash clouds may cause aviation disruption if Mount Agung erupts, Hoven said “that remains a distant and hypothetical scenario”.

Hoven shared that there had been at least a 20 per cent drop in tourism bookings in the Bali tourism sector at large, since Mount Agung volcano started to show increased signs of activity in the third week of September.

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