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Economy

Foreign tourism to Bali drops 16% in October

Pre-eruption earthquakes scare away vacationers, hurt economy

JAKARTA -- The flow of foreign tourists to the island of Bali slowed noticeably in October after signs of potential volcanic eruptions intensified in late September.

International tourists decreased 16% from the prior month to 460,000, government statistics showed Monday. Cancellations for flights and hotel rooms surged as volcanic earthquakes increased. The overall occupancy rate at the island's hotels fell 6.7 percentage points to 65.9% in October.

Mount Agung erupted late November for the first time in 53 years, and authorities raised the alert level to the highest on Nov. 27. Ngurah Rai International Airport near Denpasar, the gateway to Bali, was shut down temporarily, causing numerous flight cancellations.

As eruptions continue, airports in Bali and nearby islands could close depending on the wind direction. The impact on tourism could deepen as the usually busy year-end holiday season approaches.

Bali welcomes nearly 5 million tourists a year from China, Australia, Japan and elsewhere. And tourism had been on the rise in recent years thanks to promotional efforts by the government of President Joko Widodo.

For the first nine months of 2017, the tourist count had increased 25% on the year. However, the tally for October rose only a little over 9% on the year.

The National Agency for Disaster Management estimates economic damage from late September through right before the eruptions at 20 trillion rupiah ($1.45 billion). Prolonged eruptions could further worsen the economic impact.

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