Thais urged to avoid Bali over volcano

Thais urged to avoid Bali over volcano

Thai tourists are being advised to avoid Indonesia's Bali after the eruption of Mount Agung raised the volcano alert to its highest level and forced the island’s international airport to close.

Tourists who have already planned travel to Bali should postpone their trips because of safety reasons and wait until the volcanic eruption has stopped completely or the Indonesian government gives a green light for travel, said Ittirit Kinglake, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT).

“The TCT urges tourists to monitor the situation and follow news from the authorities or their travel companies,” Mr Ittirit said.

He said Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar has been closed since Monday morning, forcing many international airlines to cancel their flights, leaving many passengers stranded at the airport.

Thai Airways International (THAI) yesterday said it had cancelled flights departing from Bangkok to Bali after Balinese authorities ordered the closure of the airport for 24 hours, starting at 7am local time on Monday.

The cancelled THAI flights are TG 431 and TG 432, departing from Suvarnabhumi airport to Denpasar during Nov 27-30. Passengers of the national carrier can dial the airline’s contact centre at 02-356-1111.

Some other airlines operating from Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, such as Thai AirAsia, AirAsia Indonesia and Thai Lion Air, have also been affected by the volcanic eruption. All these airlines have advised passengers to adopt a wait-and-see stance.

Mr Ittirit said some travel companies and individual tourists have cancelled trips, while many travel agencies said they will be monitoring the situation.

He also said Thai tourism will benefit if the situation persists, unless the eruption causes a dense haze to cover the skies over Southeast Asia.

“If the smog covers only Bali, it will be good for Thai tourism," Mr Ittirit said. "But if it spreads to cover Singapore, Malaysia and the southern part of Thailand, tourism in the entire region will be affected."

A source from the Indonesian embassy in Bangkok said nearly 100,000 Thai tourists are expected to visit Indonesia this year, with Bali and Jakarta identified as the main destinations.

Some 98,864 Thai tourists visited Indonesia last year.

Indonesia expects more than 200,000 Thais to visit Indonesia in 2018, when Indonesia hosts the 2018 Asian Games in August and September.

Indonesia welcomed 2.5 million and 3 million international arrivals in 2015 and 2016 respectively, according to tourism statistics.

Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued its own warning, adding that Denpasar's airport would be closed yesterday and today. The Thai embassy in Jakarta has also asked Thais who are going to Bali to register and give their contact information to the embassy.

The contact numbers are +62 812-3825542 for the Thai consulate in Denpasar and +62 811-186253 for the Thai embassy in Jakarta.

As of 4.30pm yesterday, 131 Thais had registered, including 87 people who said they were travelling with tour agencies, 25 who said they were travelling in groups without using tour services, 14 who said they were travelling alone without using tour services and five who said they live in Bali.

Since Mount Agung has remained active since Sept 22 and erupted last Tuesday, the Indonesian government has issued a Level 4 warning and banned access to a 10-kilometre radius of the volcano.

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