Agents battle for Bali brand

12 September 2003

Australia's major wholesalers are ready to unite to kick-start a campaign to boost visitor numbers to Bali. But just as they do so, many fear that an imminent visa-on-arrival policy might stop any recovery in its tracks.

"Bali desperately needs a campaign similar to Singapore Roars, something the whole industry can get behind," said Ian Norris, general manager of Garuda Orient Holidays (GOH).

Usually fierce competitors, GOH, Creative Holidays and Qantas Holidays are sitting down together to produce a blueprint for a Bali recovery campaign. The campaign elements will then be taken to Bali Village and PATA Bali Chapter for input. Norris said it was critical that Bali gets it right this time.

"We need to get Bali to speak with one voice. We need a campaign similar to those offered by Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand that we can all support," said Norris

"I sit in front of my TV screen in Australia watching the destination commercials from Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, and then I ask myself, Where's Indonesia?"

While Bali is currently experiencing a revival in business from its Asian neighbours, agents forecast that the destination is still 70 percent below its usual peak period traffic. Statistics show July was 38 percent down on 2002. Critically, the absence is coming mostly from the higher-spending Western markets. Australia is therefore seen by the Bali trade as a crucial market to reactivate, for its spin-off potential.

"The Australian market will in turn help drive the other Western markets," said Dharma Tirtawisata, chief operating officer of Panorama Leisure Group.

Norris said he did not expect the Australian market to fully recover before next year, and stressed that a concerted campaign was needed for the rest of this year to regenerate interest.

"The campaign should be one that airlines and wholesalers can hang their hat on," said Norris.

"At the moment everyone is working hard to revive Bali but we're coming from different angles. Unless we have this unifying campaign, we're all fighting among ourselves. The sooner we do this the better it will be for Bali."

Norris suggested the campaign could be funded by hotels, airlines and the Bali Tourism Board.

He hoped the airlines would pitch in with special advance purchase fares. "This would help travellers to pre-commit to Bali," he said.

The Indonesian government too is eyeing an Australian revival. Minister of Culture and Tourism I Gede Ardika confirmed at TIME 2003 in Jakarta this week that a public-private Special Committee has been established to target the market, and that roadshows would follow.

Tirtawisata said talk of Bali revival had been optimistic. "There has been no genuine peak season in Bali this year, honestly. Hotels have not reached full occupancy in some time, and while they have some heavy weekend bookings due to domestic traffic, there's no real peak season."

"Most of the agents specialising in the Western market will not break even this year, or to do so they will have to squeeze staff costs and other overheads by 50 percent," said Tirtawisata.

See Anger and confusion over visa policy

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