Indonesia offers free hotel stays to U.S. market

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LOS ANGELES -- Reacting to a downturn in visitors following several recent U.S. State Department travel advisories, Indonesia is inviting U.S. travelers to spend three nights in a number of hotels throughout Bali, Lombok and Java for free.

Thomas Steinmetz, joint chief executive officer for the Indonesia Council of Tourism Partners, said Indonesia has joined forces with two U.S. tour companies, Darshan Tours in Honolulu and LA Express Travel in Los Angeles, to handle travel arrangements for Americans who want to take advantage of the offer.

Travel agents would earn a commission on the air fare portion of the trip (air fare is not included), as well as on any additional hotel nights or tours that clients book.

The Indonesia Council of Tourism Partners is offering free hotel nights to U.S. travelers to Indonesia. Steinmetz said the tourist board is in "preliminary discussions" with Malaysia Airlines about setting aside a certain number of reduced-cost seats to sell during the promotion, which is in effect through April.

"This [promotion] is the response by the tourism office to recent travel warnings issued by the U.S. State Department," said Steinmetz. "We want American travelers to know most of Indonesia is a safe and affordable vacation destination."

Steinmetz said Indonesia has enlisted the support of a number of top hotel chains in the country, including the Century Group of Hotels and Alam Kul Kul.

Among the inbound operators handling land arrangements are Visitur, Pacto Tours and Api Tours, which have agreed to donate free half-day sightseeing excursions and airport transfers.

"The majority of U.S. tourists visiting Indonesia, I would say 90%, go to Bali, and there are no problems there," said Jessie Dillon, manager of LA Express Travel, which has been selling Indonesia for two years.

"If this promotion works, people will come back with positive experiences, they will tell their friends and they will want to go," said Dillon.

Steinmetz said the tourist board is lobbying other U.S. tour operators and Indonesian hotel companies and suppliers to join the program.

The U.S. State Department last October issued a public announcement telling Americans traveling to Indonesia or East Timor and West Timor to exercise caution, warning the country was experiencing a violent political transition. Indonesia has restricted the travel of U.S. and other foreign government officials and tourists to Aceh, Papua and the Moluccas.

In response to the travel warnings, the Indonesia tourist board established a 24-hour help line in Indonesia (021-720-2235) for American tourists.

For additional information, call 866-INDONESIA or visit the Web at www.indonesia2001.com.

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