Indonesia Defiant but Jakarta Bomb Could Impact Tourism

Police officers react near the site of a blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 14, 2016.( REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)
Jakarta bomb

Police officers react near the site of a blast in Jakarta, Indonesia, January 14, 2016.( REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)

Following the first major terrorist attack in Indonesia since 2009, the tourism industry reflects on what will be the long-term impact of the assault on the industry. By Kate Burbidge and Mark Bibby Jackson.

The full ramifications of the January 14 terrorist attack that left eight people dead – including five of the attackers – and 20 wounded in Jakarta upon Indonesia’s tourist industry are yet to be calculated. The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the first major assault by militants in Indonesia since 2009, when two hotel bombings in Jakarta in 2009 killed seven people.

Terrorism experts estimate that 500 to 700 Indonesians have joined Isis in Iraq and Syria. Many are drawn from the remnants of Jemaah Islamiyah that was responsible for the 2009 attack as well as the 2002 bombings of bars in Bali which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. The Indonesian government has expressed concern their return home could lead to attacks.

Tourism flagged considerably in the aftermath of these attacks. Bali numbers dropped 32 percent after the 2002 bombings. This had knock-on effects on the numbers visiting neighbouring Java, leaving hubs such as Yogyakarta almost deserted.

In recent years Indonesian tourism has recovered steadily, with nearly 9.5 million visiting the country in 2014. The government has removed short visit visa requirements for visitors from 84 countries and is planning visa-free entry to more nationalities in a bid to increase tourism.

However, some within the industry believe the attack will have a detrimental effect on tourism.

Terence Cheong, director of Orient Travel and Tours believes that, “this incident will definitely have an impact on travel to Indonesia, especially to Jakarta.”

However, in the aftermath of the January 14 attack Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism, Arief Yahya announced there had been no reported panic cancellations or check-outs, nor had there been any forward booking cancellations.

Harry Lukman GM of Sari Pan Pacific Hotel, the closest hotel to the Sarinah attack site, stated that the hotel had not received any complaints from guests nor had any checked out. “We are very glad that the police had immediately sent out sniffer dogs so that we really feel very secure,” he told media.

Airport security has been heightened as have security measures around strategic buildings, embassies, malls and other busy public areas, while the whole of Indonesia, including Jakarta, Bali, Yogyakarta and other tourist destinations remains on Top Security Alert. President Joko Widodo made an appeal to the Indonesian people to remain vigilant but calm and united.

On January 17 residents of Jakarta staged a rally in defiance of Islamic State at the site of the attack, carrying banners that read: “I am Muslim and I am against jihad terrorists,” and “We are not afraid”. The phrase in Indonesian #KamiTidakTakut has been trending on Twitter.

Police have arrested 12 people allegedly linked to the attacks.