Five months after the first Bali bombing, in October 2002, Sandee Litwin, president of Litwin Travel in Los Angeles, visited the island. She was so impressed with what she saw that she began focusing on selling the destination. In short order, she was recognized by both National Geographic Traveler and Travel + Leisure magazines as a Bali expert.

Though Bali never represented a very large percentage of her business, its a destination close to her heart.

If it werent so far away, I would have bought a second home there, she told me last week.

First and foremost, its the people and the culture. But it also has the great food, the great shopping, the beautiful beaches and scenery. Its so special -- theres no place like it.

When she started gaining expertise in the destination after the first bombing, bookings were slow to come in, but recently, it was coming back beautifully, she said.

After the magazine articles came out [listing her as a Bali specialist], I had people contacting me from around the world via the Web. Lots of honeymooners.

She shook her head sadly. Litwin had plans to return to Bali later this month.

In discussing if she would still go, she seemed to be thinking aloud, in free association, her thoughts creating an internal debate that I suspect reflected an ambivalence many in the industry were feeling.

Whats the future for Bali? she wondered. I hope people will say, No one can tell me where to go. You know, I didnt have any cancellations for London after those bombings.

"I think people today dont want to be intimidated. But look at 9/11 -- sometimes it takes time.

And then: Before I go, Ill need to make a lot of calls.

She shifted uneasily in her chair, perhaps uncomfortable starting down a path that might lead her to decide against going.

Im inclined to go. We have to set an example.

And, expressing further resolve: To be an expert, you need to keep going, to find out for yourself whats going on.

Litwins ambivalence is, I believe, part of the process were all going through as were repeatedly exposed to terrorism.

Each new exposure adds unexpected wrinkles, ones that keep us off balance.

This bombing was not as devastating as the last, at least not as far as the death toll goes.

But as a repeat target of terrorism, Balis long-term prospects for tourism may have been dealt a far deeper blow.

My friend Peter Bates, president of the marketing firm Strategic Vision, consults to an upscale hotel chain that has a property in Bali.

Before the second bombings, he had made arrangements for an acquaintance of his to stay at the property on her honeymoon next month.

Immediately after the bombings, she called and asked him if she could stay in the chains property in Chiang Mai, Thailand, instead.

I told her that if she was going to cancel Bali for Thailand, there was a much better place she could go, a place more appropriate, given the circumstances, Bates said.

I told her the chain also has a property in Phuket -- a property that has now fully recovered from the effects of the tsunami.

Of course, theres no link between natural disasters and terrorism, except in human suffering.

But my mind has created another link -that after tragedy, there is ultimately recovery, and that we must do what we can to facilitate recovery.

Ill understand if Sandee Litwin decides not to go to Bali, but, on an emotional level, I really want her to go.

Realistic or not, I want Balis recovery to begin.


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