One Year On from Bali – New report says foreign office unbalanced advice hands victory to terrorists 

Poor consultation leads to more victims of terror in affected countries, says Tourism Concern
As thousands of Australian citizens and politicians flock to Bali on October 12 for the anniversary of last year’s bombings, a new report says Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice to British tourists is causing devastation to most Balinese families. FCO Travel Advisories: the case for transparency and balance, published by Tourism Concern, says this means an increasing amount of ordinary Balinese people are becoming victims of terror.

“People in Bali are asking ‘Why is the British government punishing us for the bomb?’ It was a one-off incident, there is no day to day security issue there, meanwhile salaries of tourist industry workers – most of the population – have dropped from £150 per month to £36 and beach traders have no income at all. Families are being split and quality of life is declining dramatically,” says Chris Beddoe, Tourism Concern’s Bali specialist.

The report argues that the legitimate protection of tourists should not be at the expense of people in developing countries like Bali. It points to fact that after 11 September, the FCO did not take a stand against visiting the US, but Bali – infinitely poorer and more in need of tourism – remains ‘locked up’.

The majority of people in Bali work in the tourist industry, often all the adults in one extended family. Lack of income is forcing city dwellers to return to poor villages and families to be separated in the scramble for jobs. The FCO states that there is “significant risk for visitors of further attacks.” This means that travel insurance is not possible, so tour operators pull out.

“Foreign Office advice conflicts with the Department of International Development message advocating pro-poor tourism. It’s confusing for the British public and causes unwarranted damage to people overseas, in Bali and other countries” says Tourism Concern director Patricia Barnett.

“Officials in developing countries complain that they are not consulted, that they are not talked to but talked at, for example after warnings of a January attack in Tanzania and Zanzibar the FCO issued unclear messages. Now tour operators are unsure about the usefulness of FCO advice,” she adds. A spokesman from tour operator Exodus describes advice on Tanzania as “over-cautious” and “a cut and paste job”.

The report acknowledges the FCO’s duty to protect British tourists, but finds its advice inconsistent with other governments and at risk of causing damage to British tour operators. Japan, known for being security conscious, is happy about citizens visiting Bali, and has expressed doubts about UK travel advice. Tourists in the UK cannot buy tours to Bali from THG Tours, but can from THG’s sister company in Germany.

The report recommends that:
· information about how travel warning decisions are made is made public.
· travel warnings are consistent, geographically-specific and appropriate in their timescale and emphasis.
· open, transparent discussions are held with UK tour operators and insurance companies, destination tour operators, local and national governments in destinations, UK government departments, international and UK tourism bodies.
Visit the Tourism Concern website  at www.tourismconcern.org.uk

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