Latest airport closure becomes a litmus test for Bali’s crisis readiness

Flights starting to resume at Ngurah Rai, but Lombok airport now closed

The Mount Agung eruption that caused the abrupt closure of Ngurah Rai International Airport last Friday was a litmus test for the Balinese travel trade’s readiness in crisis management, as the incident took place as the island was hosting the annual Bali and Beyond Travel Fair (BBTF) 2018.

But it was clearly business as usual for the Balinese travel industry, TTG Asia observed on the BBTF show floor, with buyers and sellers continuing their meetings since morning.

Ngurah Rai International Airport reopened on Friday at around 14.30 and was back in full swing by Saturday

While a couple of the sellers expressed concerns over the impacts on business should the closure persists, several international buyers TTG Asia spoke to played down the ash threat.

Amy Foss, director of Smarago Reizen in The Netherlands, was one unperturbed buyer at BBTF. “ Natural disasters happen and no one can predict them,” she said. “The last time Mount Agung erupted (November 2017) did not dampen the interest of our clients to travel here.”

Rob Haynes, director of Red Tree UK, commented: “I think the travel industry here is used to something like this. They know how to handle the clients, providing the (vital) information but without giving too much to scare them.”

As a travel industry executive, Karine Hosana, owner and manager of Travel Truck France, said she was “personally not concerned” with the airport closure but clients, should they be travelling in Bali when they face such situations, might have more concerns.

What clients need under such circumstances, according to the Balinese operators, are someone to take care of them, give them directions and ease their concerns.

I Made Badra, the regent of Badung – where Ngurah Rai Airport and the major tourist attractions in Bali are located – said: “We have had a standing mitigation procedure if and when a natural disaster takes place, and it has been effected today (last Friday).

“A total of 191 stranded passengers were transported by bus to Surabaya and (by fast boat) to Lombok to catch flights from there. The free transfer includes one meal on the way. We also provide one-night free accommodation with breakfast for stranded passengers staying in Bali.”

Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport was reopened on Friday afternoon at around 14.30 and resumed normal operations by Saturday morning.

The temporary closure sparked the cancellation of 446 flights, comprising 239 domestic and 207 international. Thousands of tourists were stranded on the Indonesian resort island, and Badung Regency estimated a loss of a business volume of 75,000 pax due to the closure.

Additional reporting by Tiara Maharani

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