Ijen Crater in Banyuwangi, East Java has since last Thursday been temporarily closed to any activities due to the toxic sulphur burst, but tour operators are confident there will be little to no impact to travel to East Java including Banyuwangi area.
The National Disaster Management Authority said in a statement that Ijen Crater spewed thick clouds of sulphuric gas on Wednesday (March 21) night. Members of the community, visitors, tourists, climbers and miners have since been barred from going near the crater.
While some were reported to have taken sick or experience breathing difficulties after being exposed to the sulphur, there has been no report of tourists affected so far.
The travel companies TTG Asia spoke with said there have been no cancellations, but assured that they are prepared to divert trips if necessary.
Monas Tjahjono, managing director of Monas Tour, Surabaya, added: “In fact, we received a booking from Thailand for next month after the government issued the ban for climbing to the crater.”
However, he said he would continue monitoring the situation at Ijen. “If within three weeks the condition of Ijen remains dangerous, we will immediately change the programme and recommend visiting another tourist attraction in Banyuwangi, for example, Red Island or Alas Purwo National Park and G-land (Plengkung beach), known as one of the best surfing beaches in the world,” he said.
The other alternative is creating a village tour around the area of Ijen Crater to get closer to the miners in Ijen.
“Seeing (the blue fire phenomenon) is the main reason (travellers) visit Ijen Crater. But tourists are also attracted by the activities of the (sulphur) miners, learning how they live… in (challenging and dangerous) conditions, carrying 80 kgs of rocks over 10km,” Monas said.
Adjie Wahjono, operations manager of Aneka Kartika Tours and Travel Services, said tourists usually take Mount Bromo-Ijen Volocanic Compund tour packages, before traveling to Bali.
Until the end of March, Aneka Kartika Tours and Travel Services has several groups from France and the UK scheduled to visit Mount Bromo and Ijen.
“With an emergency like now, we will offer other adventure tour packages, such as agrotourism in Kaliklatak Plantation or visiting a village around Ijen Crater,” said Adjie, who likewise has not seen any cancellations.
He also remarked that should travellers decide not to visit Banyuwangi area, they will be no short of alternatives. Instead of Mountt Bromo and Ijen, he would offer the mountain areas of Bromo-Tengger-Semeru.
According to the statement, activity at Mount Ijen is currently classified as “Normal”, or “Level 1”. There was no increase in seismic activity.