Thai travel agencies keep an eye on rumbling Bali volcano

Balinese worshippers look at Mount Agung, enshrouded by clouds, from the gate of Penataran Agung Lempuyang Temple on Saturday, a day after the volcano’s alert status was raised to the highest level. (Reuters photo)

Thai travel agencies are monitoring the situation in Bali as Thais have been warned not to travel to the northern part of the island following rumblings from the Mount Agung volcano, which is threatening to erupt.

Indonesian authorities on Friday announced the highest possible alert level.

Officials say more than 34,000 people have fled the region around the volcano, fearing it will erupt for the first time in more than half a century.

The number Sunday from a disaster emergency task force is more than double previous estimates. It includes people who left voluntarily as well as those ordered to evacuate.

Authorities raised the volcano’s alert status to the highest level Friday following a “tremendous increase” in seismic activity. Its last eruption in 1963 killed 1,100 people.

 (Video Twitter/)

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency has praised the welcoming response of local communities on Bali to the flood of evacuees.

Representatives of Thai travel agencies Thoogtong Tour and Best Tour Holiday said they are watching developments on the island closely. Trips will be postponed or shifted to other destinations if conditions there worsen, they said. So far, they report no cancellations of group tours.

Several tour operators including Mira Ontour, Thoongtong Tour and Best Tour Holiday said a number of tourists have postponed their plans to visit northern Bali, but those who have booked trips to other parts intend to travel as planned.

Operators said most Thai tourists will visit lakes and cultural sites on the western side of the island, a safe distance from the volcano.

“Only a few tourists want to visit places nearby the crater, and they should now postpone those trips,” a marketing representative of Mira Ontour said.

Thai tourists were warned by the not to visit Northern Bali in the wake of intensifying tremors from Mount Agung.

Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency issued a travel warning, saying that no one should be within nine kilometres west of the crater and 12km to the north, east and south, the directions that lava could flow from an eruption.

Mount Agung is seen from a nearby village in Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia, on Sunday. (EPA-EFE photo)

Dodo Sudradjat, Minister for Information and Socio-Cultural Affairs at the Indonesian embassy in Bangkok, said that most tourism destinations in Bali are located a safe distance from Mount Agung.

So far, the eruption warning has not impacted tourism on the island significantly, he said, but local authorities are making necessary preparations in case an emergency occurs. 

“I think tourists in Bali or those who plan to visit Bali should monitor the situation and watch for local authorities’ announcements,” Mr Sudradjat said.

He added that only the northern part of Bali should be avoided. Tourist attractions in the rest of the country are open as usual.

According to Mr Sudradjat, 98,864 Thai tourists visited Indonesia last year. The most popular destinations for Thais are Bali followed by Jakarta.

More than 200,000 Thais are expected to travel to Indonesia this year. The number is expected to surge next year, when the country hosts the 2018 Asian Games from Aug 18 to Sept 2. 

Indonesia welcomed 2.5 million and 3 million international arrivals in 2015 and 2016 respectively, and the number is expected to reach 5 million in 2018. 

In turn, 469,125 Indonesian tourists visited Thailand in 2015, and 535,625 in 2016. The Tourism Authority of Thailand said numbers from Indonesia have continued to grow this year. 

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