Last updated: 04:01 PM ET, Tue December 08 2015

Security Tightened in Bali as High Season Begins

Impacting Travel | Josh Lew | December 08, 2015

Security Tightened in Bali as High Season Begins

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Bali is increasing its security for the coming tourist high season after Indonesian officials said a terrorist attack was “possible.” 

There are a couple of reasons that Indonesia is concerned, chiefly that the terror group ISIS allegedly threatened six Indonesian police officers. Indonesia Police Watch told the Daily Mail that the senior law enforcement figures were singled out because they were "considered the most responsible for arresting radical groups and those indicated as ISIS members in Indonesia."

No specific threat to Bali

As of yet, there has been no specific threat to Bali. However, officials are being cautious. It is unclear if they have some sort of intelligence beyond the police death threats that suggests the possibility of an attack. The increase in security is most evident around the island’s main airport in Denpasar. Security Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said that precautions were being taken around Indonesia “ in all airports, sea and air, and possibly other places too." 

It is no surprise that Bali has received the most noticeable increase in police presence. The island experienced a major terror attack in 2002. More than 200 people were killed when extremists from the al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiah bombed two crowded bars. 

Exercise caution, but don’t stay away

At least one Indonesian security official played down the threats and the increase in security. He pointed out that past attacks attributed to ISIS or al-Qaeda were not preceded by specific threats or warnings. 

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, has not issued any warnings for Bali (or Indonesia as a whole). They have only advised tourists visiting the archipelago to exercise caution in general, but they have not mentioned any sort of increased threat level.

Security to protect tourists and tourism ambitions

Bali has recovered from the tourism slump that followed the 2002 blasts. The island has hosted major events and seen an increase in arrivals over the past decade, and it recently announced a free entry scheme for tourists from an increased number of countries. 

Also, Indonesia is set to make a major push to promote itself so that it can reach its goal of 20 million international arrivals in 2020. One of the first aspects of this campaign, a cable TV series called Wondernesia, premieres on Discover Channel Asia this month. 

So Jakarta certainly has reason to be extremely cautious when it comes to protecting tourist destinations. Even a small attack would devastating for their tourism ambitions. While popular destinations like Bali could always be targets for terrorists, the security increase could also, at least in part, be a move to put tourists at ease and show the world that Indonesia is capable of protecting the 20 million visitors it hopes to get in just five years time.    

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