Bali’s normally crowded beaches had only a handful of visitors Thursday and hotels were offering steep discounts to lure travelers back.
That does not bode well for the tourism outlook as the island heads into what would normally be a busy holiday season.
“Uncertainty is as much an enemy to the regional tourism industry as the actual eruptions,” said Keith Loveard, a senior analyst at the Jakarta-based firm Concord Consulting.
Also affected is the neighboring island of Lombok, an increasingly popular tourist destination. Its airport has also been forced to close at times because of volcanic ash in the air, which can damage an airplane’s engine.
Arief Yahya, Indonesia’s minister of tourism, said last week that Bali would lose about $665 million through the end of November because of the volcanic activity, which started increasing noticeably in September.
Indonesia is unlikely to make its target of 15 million visitors this year, he said. The country’s goal of 20 million visitors by 2019 is also in jeopardy.
Ubud, a picturesque town in the foothills, is surrounded by rice paddies and is popular with foreign tourists. On a clear day, Mount Agung is visible from some parts of town.
The town center is full of art galleries, clothing stores, coffee shops, spas and yoga studios. Normally, the main street is choked with traffic and its sidewalks crowded with pedestrians.
But now, Ubud’s hotels and shops have few customers and the streets are uncharacteristically devoid of traffic. Tour buses, typically…