Thu, 10 Apr 2003

Participants of PATA meeting told to bring health passes

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

Delegates to the annual Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) conference, to be held in Nusa Dua, Bali from April 13 to April 17, are expected to come with up to date health certificates explaining that they are free of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), said local chairman of PATA organizing committee.

Ida Bagus Alit Putra, who is also the deputy governor of Bali, told reporters on Tuesday, that despite the outbreak of SARS, 595 participants from 41 countries would attend the 52nd PATA conference.

"All participants at the conference, especially those coming from Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, China/Hong Kong and Taiwan are expected to bring a current health certificate," Alit Petra said.

He added that the upcoming PATA conference was expected to improve the ruined image of Bali, which was hit hard by the Oct. 12 Bali bombing, and is part of the government's Bali recovery program.

Meanwhile I Gede Pitana, head of the Bali Tourism Office, added that the health certificate would be checked upon arrival at Denpasar's Ngurah Rai International airport.

"Based on the World Health Organization (WHO) standard, every air passenger must enter a special check area at the airport to be checked by the officials to show that he or she is free from SARS," Pitana said.

The health certificates from the participant's countries of origin will help accelerate the checking system, he added.

Pitana said that Bali is now suffering from a slump of tourist arrivals since the terror attacks last October. In January 2002, Bali received 87,000 foreign visitors as compared to January 2003 with only 67,000 visitors. In February 2003, around 63,000 tourists came to the island, compared to 96,000 in the same period last year.

In March 2003, the number of visitor slightly increased to 74,000 tourists. The number of visitors that arrived in March 2002, however, reached 113,000.

Pitana also said that the average tourist arrival to Bali in early March reached around 2,400 persons a day. In the fourth week of that month, when the Iraq war began, the average daily arrival dropped drastically to only 1,400.

Pitana, however, refused to admit that the drop in tourist arrivals was mainly due to the cuts of international flights to Bali, especially Singapore Airline.

A few days ago, Gede Widiartha, head of the immigration office at Ngurah Rai airport, confirmed that the office had already received an announcement from Singapore Airlines.

Singapore Airlines said it planned to reduce the number of Singapore-Denpasar direct flights from 28 flights per week to only seven flights per week effective April 5.

But, on April 6, there were four Singapore Airline flights plying direct Denpasar-Singapore route. However, Singapore Airlines officials at Ngurah Rai airport were not available for comment.

Ngurah Rai Airport's director IGM Dhordy added that Singapore Airlines had already reduced the number of flights to Bali back in October after the bombings.

Widhiarta said that his office has not yet received any announcement from other foreign airline companies such as Thai Airlines, Air China, Cathay Pacific or Garuda Indonesia that they would reduce their direct flights to Bali.

"Those companies are still on regular flight schedules," Widhiarta said.