Interview with Gaia Grant by ABC Radio: Bali's Economy Struggling

Transcript from AM ABC radioTranscript. This is a transcript from AM ABC radio. The program is broadcast around Australia

AM - Saturday, 15 October , 2005 08:15:18

Reporter: Toni Hassan

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Bali continues to struggle economically. Hotel occupancy is down by 20 to 50 per cent.

Gaia Grant is an Australian, who along with her husband runs an international business, Tirian, based in Bali teaching executives team-building skills.

Their company employs 12 people. The Grants are now trying to decide whether to stay or leave Bali, as Toni Hassan reports.

TONI HASSAN: For most of the past 10 years Gaia Grant's home has been beachfront Jimbaran, just 20 metres from the where bombs ripped through a seafood restaurant two weeks ago.

GAIA GRANT: Fortunately we weren't directly affected personally. Our house and our office property were safe, but our staff were out there experiencing the trauma of you know, hearing the bomb and then responding to it in whatever ways they could. It could've been us. It's very scary.

TONI HASSAN: Mrs Grant says the latest attack has already affected the island's tourism industry.

GAIA GRANT: Certainly now people are cancelling and things are dropping off. The hotels are down to between 20 and 50 per cent occupancy and they were at 100 per cent occupancy, which is the first time in years and years and years that the tourism business had been thriving again here in Bali.

TONI HASSAN: After the 2002 Sari club bombings in Kuta, Mrs Grant, her husband Andrew, and their two school-age children agonised over whether to stay. They even feared an attack on the children's international school.

Back then, the overriding hope was that the violence was isolated to Kuta, the bigger tourism mecca.

GAIA GRANT: We were careful about being in crowded areas, but you know to have it happen in a family restaurant in our quiet little corner of Jimbaran was a real shock.

TONI HASSAN: The unpredictable influence of terrorism on the Indonesian island is still not yet enough to make this family actually pack up their bags and return.

Gaia Grant says the Balinese worry about a future without tourists and expatriate families such as her own.

GAIA GRANT: The Balinese themselves need us and benefit from us being here and in fact Balinese are now panicking and keep us asking us, you know, "Are you leaving us? Are you still going to stay? Do you still think it's safe to live here?"

And we try to reassure them that it is our intent to stay.

TONI HASSAN: There's already talk or reports that insinuate JI, Jemaah Islamiah, as the culprits for the latest bombing, what's the talk on the street?

I mean, is JI on people's minds and its influence, or is this a terror campaign that's less tangible than that?

GAIA GRANT: From a local Balinese perspective they're very much living day to day. They have not wanted to place blame, but I think there has been a change with this bombing, because you know, there have been now demonstrations at the jail where Amrozi was being held and the Balinese are saying, 'Okay, you know we don't want to just be passive victims anymore.'

TONI HASSAN: This week Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer failed in his bid to persuade the Indonesian Government to ban Jemaah Islamiah.

Meanwhile residents and visitors to Bali are adjusting to new realities that anything can happen at any time, as Islamists use terror to realise their vision.

That and a growing police presence in Bali is changing the very nature of the island's traditionally relaxed culture.

After the 2002 bombings, major hotels debated the merits of increasing security checks around hotels and creating effectively 'gated communities', but now that's become a reality.

GAIA GRANT: Some hotels got those gates, and then now, everybody's suddenly put up these really big, heavy gates and the security checks are very thorough.

TONI HASSAN: In light of the latest bombing?

GAIA GRANT: Since the latest bombing, so within the last week and a half.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: Toni Hassan with that report.