Everything returned to normal within the space of just three hours."
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - In the new millennium, Indonesia experienced a series of terrorist attacks, yet its tourism development was not affected to any significant extent, a fact reflected by rising number of foreign tourist arrivals.

Incidents such as the 2002 Bali 1 bombing that killed 202 people, mostly Australians, the JW Marriott explosion that claimed 12 lives in Jakarta, the 2004 Australian embassy blast that killed 9, and the Bali 2 bombing that killed 23 in 2005, did not seriously affect the number of tourist arrivals in Indonesia.

The number of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia dropped only to 4.4 million and 4.13 million in 2002 and 2003, respectively, compared to 4.8 million in 2001.

In 2004, the number of foreign tourist arrivals actually recorded a rise, reaching 5.3 million, though it dropped again to 5 million in 2005 as a result of the Bali 2 bombing.

Terrorist attacks in the 2002-2005 period were clearly directed at scaring away foreigners, yet these incidents did not discourage foreign tourists from visiting Indonesia.

After nearly a decade of terror attacks, Indonesia has been able to take its foreign tourist arrivals to 9.4 million in 2014, and in 2015, it increased to 10 million. The target for 2016 is to take it to 12 million.

Now that another bomb attack took place on Thursday, it is unlikely to result in any drastic fall in the number of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia this year. After all, there is no indication that Thursdays attack was specifically targeted against foreigners.

Therefore, President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) said Thursdays attack would not disturb the countrys tourism industry.

"Today I checked out some hotels and found that no foreign tourists had left the country," the president said after visiting the Pullman Hotel in the area near the Hotel Indonesia Triffice Circle in Jalan Thamrin.

On Thursday (Jan 14), two terrorists launched suicide attacks on a police station in Jalan Thamrin near the Sarinah Department Store, which was followed by a shootout between three other terrorists and the police at the Starbucks Coffee shop adjacent to Sarinah.

Within hours, the police were able to thwart the attackers, shooting to death three of them while two others died in the suicidal bombing. The incident also left two civilians dead and a number of police and other civilians injured.

Following the incident, the head of state ordered Tourism Minister Arief Yahya to check whether there was an exodus of foreign tourists following the bombing attack on Thursday.

On Friday, however, the president came in person to the Pullman Hotel and had a dialogue with a hotel employee who handled administrative work dealing with hotel guests. The president also spoke to a foreign tourist at the hotel.

"Everything returned to normal within the space of just three hours," President Jokowi said.

When asked by the president, the foreign tourist who had come from a Latin American country, said: "Yesterdays incident was scary but now everything has returned to normal."

After chatting with the foreign tourist, the president returned to the State Palace. Earlier, he had also taken a round of the Sarinah Department Store where he spoke to the stores employees.

The president expressed optimism that the bomb blast on Thursday would not have any significant impact.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Tourism is now working with all other relevant agencies to ensure that the countrys tourism sector remains secure and welcoming, notwithstanding Thursdays bomb blast in Jakarta.

In its press statement released following the suicide attack on Thursday, the Ministry of Tourism called upon various stakeholders in Indonesias tourism to continue to provide services to tourists in their respective areas, making sure that they feel secure.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said police had done their best in handling the bomb attack near Sarinah in Jalan Thamrin, located in the capital citys office and business district.

"Such an incident can happen anywhere in the world. What is important is that we were able to handle it within a relatively short time. In five hours, from 11 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., police had taken control of the situation and conditions had returned to normal," Minister Arief said.

He said the Indonesian police were relatively quick in handling the bombing incident. In Thailand, for example, it took the police 11 days to clear out the attackers following the Bangkok bombing last September. The Indonesian police were able to neutralize them within five hours on Thursday.

"The bombing in Bangkok was far scary, but Thailand was able to recover soon. Therefore, we, too, are optimistic that the conditions in Indonesia after the Sarinah terrorist attacks would return to normal soon," he said.

However, he admitted that compared to other sectors, the tourism sector will be the most affected. After all, Thursdays suicidal attacks happened in Jakarta, the capital city, since 30 percent of foreign tourists coming to the country arrive at Jakartas Soekarno-Hatta airport.

This can actually impact Indonesias position on the world tourism map.

"Tourism has a direct relationship with security situation. If security conditions see 10 percent improvement, the tourism sector also progresses by 10 percent," the minister said.

The security sector also impacts trade, but the tourism sector is more sensitive, he noted.

Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli, however, expressed confidence that the negative impact of Sarinah bombing would not last for long as far the economy was concerned, particularly the tourism sector, and the investors confidence will remain high.

Reporter: Andi Abdussalam
Editor: Priyambodo RH
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