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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 17, 2002

Bali hotels feel the pinch as tourists go elsewhere

By Claire Leow
Bloomberg News Service

BALI, Indonesia — At Bali's beachfront restaurants, waiters stand by dozens of empty candle-lit tables. By the pool of the Four Seasons Hotel in the hills near Ubud, attendants bring chilled mineral water and freshly cut tropical fruit to a lone guest every 15 minutes.

A month after a Bali bomb blast killed at least 190 people, many of the island's 2,500 hotels have fired workers to cope with a slump that may last two years. Australia, the United States and the Britain are among governments that have warned tourists away from Indonesia and other Asian countries.

"It will take six months before any travel ban gets lifted," said Desmond James, a former hotelier who supplies hotels with Balinese artifacts and other products. "And then there'll be a long period of promotions and re-marketing Bali again before people come back."

Before the blast, Bali was the center of Indonesian tourism.

These days, 10 of southern Bali's largest hotels, which have a total of 4,000 rooms, estimate that only a quarter of their rooms will be filled next month, and 30 percent in January, said Budi Susanta, a marketing analyst at Bali Hilton International. Break-even for most hotels is 40 percent.

"I have chefs helping out in the garden, receptionists helping in the restaurants," said Chris Norton, regional vice president at the Four Seasons Resorts, which has two Bali locations.

For now, the larger resorts are resisting price cuts, saying that won't make much difference to travelers dissuaded by travel warnings. The same alerts hamper insurance arrangements for group and package tours.

Other hotels are sacking staff, adding to a pool of as many as 40 million jobless nationwide.