Fri, 09 May 2003

Vacationers scramble for train tickets

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

All executive train tickets to several cities in Java for Thursday next week are sold out while some out-of-town hotels are fully booked ahead of the four consecutive holidays that start on May 15.

As executive train tickets can only be purchased a week in advance, passenger hopefuls were seen queuing up on Thursday outside the Juanda train ticket reservation center in Central Jakarta at 6 a.m. to guarantee themselves a May 15 departure.

However, many scalpers are offering tickets for May 14 or May 15 departures.

When The Jakarta Post arrived at the reservation center, several ticket scalpers asked: "Do you want to go to Yogya, Solo, or Surabaya? All these destinations are sold out. How many tickets do you want?"

They were offering Argo Dwipangga tickets to Yogyakarta for May 14 or May 15 for Rp 250,000, which is almost double the original price of Rp 165,000 per ticket.

Many people plan to take advantage of the government's introduction of new holiday measures to revive the tourist sector, and will travel out of town for the four-day holiday.

The government decided that this year's holiday commemorating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad should fall on Thursday, May 15, instead of May 14, so that people could enjoy two consecutive days off with the national holiday observing Buddha's Day of Enlightenment on Friday.

Digna Maria, an employee of a media firm, decided to buy tickets from a ticket scalper. She said she wanted to avoid standing in the long queue because she was pregnant.

She plans to leave for Yogyakarta on Friday and she bought a ticket for Rp 200,000, even though they are regularly only Rp 150,000.

"I have also checked the airlines, but they said there were no more seats left," she said with a sigh.

Meanwhile, some hotels near Jakarta are fully booked.

Hexa, a public relations staff member at Solelite Marbela Anyer in Banten said all 300 of its rooms had been reserved.

Unlike most weekends when many rooms are vacant, she said there was not one room left for the holiday next week.

Novotel Hotel in Bogor is also fully booked, according to Yenni, a public relations staff member. But for Wednesday, 60 percent of the rooms are still available, she added.

At Raddin Hotel in Ancol Park, North Jakarta, 80 percent of the hotel's 292 rooms have been reserved for next week's holidays.

"When the holidays get closer next week, I believe that it will become overbooked," said the hotel's public relations manager, Ruth M. Tyas.

Meanwhile, Nuraini B. Prabdanu, the public relations manager for Horison Hotel, also in Ancol, said the hotel had not seen an increase in reservations so far. "Currently only 25 percent of the hotel's 440 rooms have been reserved."

However, in most cases, she said, the hotel would become overbooked when the holidays drew nearer.