THE
Foreign and Commonwealth Office has defended its ban against non-essential
travel to Indonesia, as the one-year anniversary of the Bali bomb approaches.

Operators
claim a change in FCO advice is long overdue, as other European nations
including France and Germany have lifted the ban on travel to the holiday
island.

The
FCO said it continues to receive information about further planned terrorist
attacks. A spokeswoman said: “Our advice is assessed regularly and the
situation is such that we advise against non-essential travel.”

The
US and Australian governments are also still maintaining a non-essential travel
ban.

Kuoni,
Cresta and Hayes and Jarvis have included Bali for 2004, but will offer
alternatives to clients if travel is still ruled out next year. Thomson
Holidays will not include the destination in its 2004 range. Kuoni product
director Francis Torilla said

the
lifting of the ban was “long overdue” and was a cause of “tremendous pressure”
on the Balinese, who depend on income from tourism.

Cresta
product manager Maria Llinares said: “There seems to be a mixed message within
Europe. We would like the UK advice to change.”

Figures
from Bali International Airport show a decline of 38% in foreign visitors for
January to July compared to the same months in 2002.

Indonesia’s
national carrier Garuda is continuing its Back 2 Bali campaign, urging the FCO
to change its advice.

Acting
sales manager Sandra Ishmael said it is continuing to operate out of the UK
with a six-times-a-week service from Heathrow, codesharing with Malaysia
Airlines, which is running well. Garuda’s UK and Ireland office has axed 20
staff over the last 18 months as a result of poor trading.