Indonesian tourism industry battered by images of violence
September 26, 1999
JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Indonesia has been plagued by image problems in recent times -- from last year's economic crisis and related unrest to this year's militia rampage in East Timor and riots in Jakarta.
Those problems have taken their toll on the archipelago's tourism industry -- the nation's sixth leading earner of hard currency.
The first six months of 1999 saw some improvement over a 1998 season slowed by riots on the streets of the capital. But the wave of violence that swept East Timor late this summer may sink the industry again.
Tourism pumped $6 billion into Indonesia's troubled economy in 1996, the latest figure available. But when tourists stay away, frightened by the pictures they see on their television screens, the money stays away, too.
Indonesian tourism officials are determined to get the word out that while there are some problems, they are not affecting all of the country.
"You have to tell the world this is just an accident and it happens everywhere in the world," said Tourism Minister Marzuki Usman. "We are doing our best to solve the problem."
Jakarta hosted an annual trade show this week touting Indonesia's place as a tourist destination. Tour operators and travel writers got red carpet treatment from officials who want to counter the daily television news.
Of Indonesia's 17,000 islands, Bali's tourism has been least affected by the turmoil, perhaps because most do not perceive the island paradise as part of Indonesia.
"We still have good occupancies at the hotels in Bali," Usman said.
Usman hopes the public relations effort will keep tourists coming to see the Hindu temples of Prambanan and the Dieng Plateau, the towering mountains of Irian Jaya, the famed Komodo dragons (giant monitor lizards) of Komodo Island and the rest of what Indonesia has to offer.
Correspondent Tom Mintier contributed to this report.
Tourists avoid Indonesia in wake of violence, economic crunch
Official Website of Indonesia and Bali Tourism
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