SENGGIGI, Lombok Island—The dining area at the Sheraton Senggigi Beach Resort teemed with mostly Australian tourists on Monday, an unexpected sight the morning after the execution of the three Bali bombers that sparked concerns of possible retaliatory attacks against Westerners in this country.
Weeks before the executions, the Australian, UK and US governments issued travel advisories against “unnecessary” trips to certain parts of Indonesia–especially Bali which is a 20-minute flight from Lombok.
Australian national Peter Dillon had just spent a week in Bali with his wife, two daughters and 37 other people when Bali bombers Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Muklas were executed at the Nusa Kambangan Penitentiary in Central Java.
“We had a wedding to come to and it couldn’t be put off. That’s why we came here,” Dillon said in an interview on Monday.
Dillon said they were concerned about possible retaliatory attacks against Westerners as warned by their government before they left for Indonesia, but “once we got here we didn’t.”
After a week in Bali, Dillon’s group would stay in Senggigi for three days, then return to Bali for another three days before taking the flight back home.
Stephen Williams, who is with Dillon’s group, said: “No fear….In reality, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. It could happen in Australia. The possibility of where it’s going to happen is irrelevant, so get on with it.”
Both Dillon and Williams said they were “disappointed with the lack of tourism” in Bali, where many establishments have closed shop following the October 12, 2002, bombing that killed 202 people, 88 of them Australians.
Williams said that during his trip to Bali–his first, like most of the others in his group–the situation was “normal” and hoped the infamous island would regain the tourists and business it had lost to the Bali bombing, and now, the execution of the bombers.
As if to prove how normal the situation in Bali is, Williams noted that “the only person I saw with a weapon was in a bank at Kuta.”
“We’ll come back [to Bali]. Yes, absolutely,” he said.
Some travelers decided to err on the side of caution and reportedly cancelled their participation at the Second Lombok Triathlon in Senggigi, held on the same day as the executions, because they could not get a flight to Lombok without a stopover in Jakarta.
Akhmad Fadholi, rooms division manager of the Sheraton Senggigi Beach Resort, said in an interview that concerns over the repercussions of the executions had prompted about 30 triathlon participants from the US and Europe to cancel their trip and, consequently, their booking with the hotel.
Fadholi said the participants could not get a seat on Silk Air, which flies from Singapore to Lombok without passing through Jakarta.
“By having the travel advisories, it is not very easy for them to fly over Lombok with any kind of airlines unless they flew Silk Air, but it only flies to Lombok three times a week. We have worked so hard to convince them that they can fly to Lombok via Jakarta,” he said, but to no avail.
British national Colin Alexander and Chin Siew Yoon, both based in Singapore, took Silk Air and managed to join the triathlon as they had planned months in advance.
Alexander said Lombok was an unlikely terrorist target anyway. “Maybe there would be repercussions in Bali but I don’t think [there would be] in Lombok because the target wouldn’t be big enough. If you wanted to do a revenge bombing, you want to take out as many lives as possible and you want to take out as many white boys as possible. You wouldn’t get a good return on your bombing dollar, shall we say,” he said.
Having lived in Asia for the last 28 years, it has become clear to him, he added, that such incidents, if they do happen, “are extremely localized.”
Jakarta-based Scottishman Neil Anderson, who was on a Lombok holiday with his wife and three-year-old daughter, said the rule of thumb is to avoid places in Bali where foreigners congregate.
“I definitely would have avoided going to Bali or Eastern Java over the last week….I would go again but I would pick carefully which hotel we stayed in, and I would probably avoid going out to bars or nightclubs where are there are lots of expats or foreigners,” said Anderson.