State Department Hurts 'Visit Indonesia Year'

Compiled from Times staff and wire service reports

For a country that has been promoting 1991 as "Visit Indonesia Year," the current State Department advisory regarding travel to that country comes at the worst of times.

Although the advisory refers only to two remote areas of Sumatra and New Guinea and specifically says that the country's main tourist areas are not affected, the warning nonetheless has angered Indonesian government and tourism officials.

The State Department issued the advisory after the discovery of "an explosive device" in the U.S. ambassador's residence in Jakarta Jan. 18, and because of ongoing rebellions in the provinces of Aceh and Irian Jaya. Indonesia has since formally protested against the U.S. action, with officials saying it amounted to interference in domestic affairs. According to a tourism official, about 20% of Indonesia's foreign visitors come from the United States.

With travel to Indonesia already having been affected by the Persian Gulf War's impact on tourism, the country's worldwide "Visit Indonesia Year" campaign has been further hurt by the State Department action. Even Indonesian President Suharto has made a point of trying to persuade prospective foreign visitors who might have been scared by the threat of Gulf War-related terrorism that Indonesia is a safe place to visit.

"It is no exaggeration to say today that Indonesia is one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world," Suharto said last week in a speech inaugurating 75 new hotels and other tourist facilities across the country.

Travel Quiz: What do Sao Paolo, Brazil, and Guayaquil, Ecuador, have in common? (Answer below.)

A Capital Idea: Japan Airlines is scheduled to begin its new nonstop service between Washington and Tokyo March 30. The flights will operate three times a week.

A Goofy Idea: Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., has increased admission prices by $2 to $10 per ticket.

A Lot More Than Three Coins in the Fountain: Some superstitions die hard, and tossing a coin into a fountain for good luck apparently is one of them.

When architects of the North Terminal at Gatwick Airport outside London included a modernistic water sculpture in their design, they obviously did not consider the reaction from the traveling public.

But in the first year since the fountain's installation, travelers have tossed no less than $11,000 in sterling into the fountain, as well as an as-yet-unconverted amount in foreign coins.

The money, incidentally, ends up with Travel Care, a registered charity that helps travelers in need.

Quick Fact: Four million people a year visit the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Gloomy Forecast: Despite the apparent resolution of the Persian Gulf War, the U.S. travel industry will continue to suffer because of the recession and the perceived threat of terrorism, according to a Cambridge, Mass.-based industry analyst.

A survey of 40 multinational travel agencies, tour operators and suppliers conducted by Arthur D. Little, Inc., found that respondents expect no immediate turnaround in either leisure or business travel originating in the United States.

The survey also revealed that travelers are now booking trips two or three weeks in advance rather than the typical two or three months. In addition, it showed that business travel might be permanently affected as management reevaluates business trips and finds that many are not essential.

Measure for Measure: Lack of funding forced the Royal Shakespeare Company to stop performances last November at the Barbican Centre in London, the first time this had happened in the company's history.

It was only a temporary measure, however, and the RSC, which continued to play Stratford throughout the winter, will reopen in London March 21.

Hawaiian Eye: About 20% of the complaints made to the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii involve the state's travel agencies, which the bureau has called "among its most complaint-ridden businesses."

Present regulatory laws governing travel agencies do not offer enough protection for consumers, a legislative report stated, adding that more than half the complaints received involve agency failures to make refunds to customers.

That Sinking Feeling: The anaconda is the largest snake in the Western Hemisphere. It is also the name of a frightening/exhilarating (take your pick) new roller-coaster ride at Kings Dominion amusement park in Godswell, Va.

The one-of-a-kind coaster, which cost $5 million to build, features 2,700 feet of track and its cars move in excess of 50 m.p.h.

The ride includes a 130-foot-high lift, followed by a 90-degree turn and a succeeding drop of 144 feet, a 126-foot underwater tunnel (beneath Lake Charles), a vertical loop rising 100 feet above the lake surface, a 90-foot sidewinder loop and two side-by-side loops, one in butterfly configuration and the other in a corkscrew shape.

Quiz Answer: Both are the largest cities in their respective countries, and yet neither is the capital. Brazil's capital is Brasilia, while Ecuador is governed from Quito.

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