Bali’s Rumbling Volcano Leaves Tourist Industry Gasping for Air

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.


Waiting for customers at Ubud Market.

Putu Sayoga for The New York Times

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.


A cafe in Ubud. A barista in the town, Dewa Septiana, said it was the quietest he had ever seen it.

Putu Sayoga for The New York Times

But now, Ubud’s hotels and shops have few customers and the streets are uncharacteristically devoid of traffic. Tour buses, typically ubiquitous, have vanished.

Sales clerks, waiters and spa workers sit in front of their empty establishments, chatting with each other and offering their services to the occasional tourist who walks by.

Many worry whether they will be able to keep their jobs.

“This is the quietest I have ever seen Ubud,” said Dewa Septiana, 25, a barista at a coffee shop. “Usually this street will be full of traffic. But since the airport closing last week, it has been empty here. Very empty.”

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