Sun, 13 Apr 2003

Despite SARS threats, PATA gets many enthusiasts

Wahyoe Boediwardhana and I Wayan Juniartha, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

Despite the global threat of SARS, delegates attending the four-day 52nd Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Conference, to be officially opened by President Megawati Soekarnoputri in Bali on Monday, are flowing into the country.

As of Saturday evening, 850 delegates from more than 42 countries had registered with organizers in Bali. They expect more to confirm before registration ends on Sunday evening.

Prior to the war, terrorist threats and SARS outbreak, organizers were hoping to equal the 1,100 delegates who attended last year's conference in New Delhi, India.

The development has eased concerns of both the conference organizers and the local tourism community, who have been working hard to repair Bali's image, which was shattered after last year's terrorist attacks.

"We are very pleased. In terms of realistic expectations since the beginning of this year, we can say that we are reasonably satisfied," PATA's chairman for Indonesia, Alistair Speirs, told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

Bali Tourism Office head I Gde Pitana said that given the current circumstances, enthusiasm for the conference was considered strong.

The head of a convention organizing company, Ida Bagus Lolec, expressed joy with the strong attendance, stressing the conference was essential to restore Bali's image abroad.

"We could not afford to get the conference canceled or, even, postponed," the head of Pacific World said.

He praised several parties, particularly the Ngurah Rai International Airport Authority, which went a long way to ensure the success of the conference.

"The Airport Authority had set up a special VIP arrival lounge, immigration clearance desks and health facilities to provide a smooth and superb service to the incoming PATA delegates. It is a very smart initiative, and we are very grateful for that."