Qatar Airways expected to bring more foreign tourists to Bali

Rita A.Widiadana, The Jakarta Post, Jimbaran, Bali

With the launch of direct flight from Doha to Bali's provincial capital, Denpasar, last week, Qatar Airways is expected to help bring more tourists from the Middle East and Europe to the resort island.

Speaking Thursday to reporters at a media gathering at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Jimbaran Bay, Qatar Airways's chief executive officer Akbar Al Baker, said he hoped the airline would not only bring visitors from the Middle East to Bali, but also from Europe and North America.

"Bali has always been one of the world's top destinations despite terrorist attacks years ago. People will again go back to Bali and forget those terrible events," Al Baker said.

Qatar Airways, which launched its new route to Denpasar on Saturday, flies to Bali's capital four times a week via Kuala Lumpur using Airbus A300-600 aircraft.

In 2001, Qatar Airways introduced Indonesia's capital Jakarta to its growing list of global destinations.

"With stronger economic ties developing between Indonesia and other countries, we can expect a surge in the number of visitors both to and from Bali," Al Baker explained.

According to figures from the Bali Tourism Authority, the number of visitors from the Middle East is still very small, amounting to only 800 a month. Bali receives about 1.2 million visitors a year.

"We can't tell you how many passengers from the Middle East will come to Bali, but I can assure you that people in my country consider Bali to be an attractive holiday destination," he said, adding that at present Qataris and other people from the Middle East mostly spent their holidays in Europe.

Gede Nurjaya, the head of the Bali Tourism Authority, warmly welcomed the start of direct flights between Doha and Denpasar.

"We have to be prepared to receive Middle Eastern visitors, and also more Europeans," he said, adding that since Garuda Indonesian discontinued its European routes, including London, Amsterdam and Paris, several years ago, the number of European visitors had dropped significantly.

Europe is one of Bali's most important markets, in addition to Australia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik praised Qatar's decision to fly to Denpasar, hoping that with the airline's arrival, more tourists from the Middle East and Europe would visit Bali and other parts of Indonesia.

Besides Denpasar, the airline also launched inaugural flights last week from Doha to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and from Doha to Chennai, India.

The addition of Denpasar and Ho Chi Minh City sees Qatar Airways' Far East network increase from 12 to 14 destinations. The airline also serves Hong Kong, Osaka, Beijing, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Yangon, Manila and Cebu.
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