Everytime something awful happens in the world these days, I get a call from my mother.
“Where are you? Are you alright?” she asked, the Saturday night the three bomb blasts rocked Bali.
She heaved a huge sigh of relief when I told her I was home in Singapore. She worries a lot about me and my travels. Ever since the world turned more indiscriminately violent, she, like all mothers in the world, has had more cause to worry about their children who have to travel for a living.
Yet she has never asked me once to stop travelling.
She knows that would be giving in to those who want to spread terror in our lives and put fear in our hearts.
When I first heard news of the bomb blasts in Bali, my heart sank. My first thought was for the victims, my second was for the Balinese people who have suffered the last three years and who will now have to continue to suffer.
Just last week, I was told by travel industry friends in Bali that business was at last picking up, three years after the October 12, 2002 bomb blast.
Airlines were flying back and hotels were beginning to fill up and the whole of Bali was waiting in anticipation for the best high season this winter in three years.
And then this …
The aftermath, unfortunately, will be depressingly familiar.
As one of my expatriate friends, Willem Loots, who has lived in Bali for the last 20 years told me in an email that night of the bomb blasts, “We will be sharing the most beautiful island on this planet once again with the Balinese and a diehard expatriate community.”
And, “as a result, once again hundreds of thousands of people working in the hospitality and travel trade will be out of a job and indirectly some three million peaceful people will be affected”, he said.
Ever the eternal optimist, even Willem was finding it hard to be optimistic that night.
But as the sun rose on a brand new day the next morning, I got an email from him, this time admitting “Today already it appears that perhaps my assessment yesterday was overly pessimistic...”
My spirits immediately rose.
You see, that’s the thing with hope and fear – both are infectious. And I know which I’d rather be spreading.
As hard as it is right now to be positive about the short-term, I believe in the resilience of human nature and the timelessness of Bali.
More than 80 percent of Bali’s population depends on tourism for their livelihoods. Many lost jobs and income after 2002 but their optimism and hope that the world would not desert them kept them going.
One Singaporean couple, who flew to Bali the next day after the bomb blasts, said, “There will always be something to stop you from going somewhere – hurricanes, typhoons, SARS. If you stay where you are, it does not mean you will be safe.”
At the end of the day, it is up to each of us to decide how we should react to any crisis – with optimism and hope or pessimism and defeat. To me, it is not even a choice.
Just last week I was asked by someone, “If you had a friend from Europe coming to Asia for the first time and they only had a few days, where would you ask them to go?”
My first answer was Bali.
The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia’s most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.
Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company’s mission is “Content, Communication, Connection”.
She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published “Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries”. Her motto is ‘free to do, and be’.