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Ravijit Chaudhuri, a Delhi resident, firmed up plans for a December holiday to Bali in October. Having planned in advance, Chaudhuri managed to get good deal and save on flight and hotel bookings. Things, however, have not been favourable for visitors to the Indonesian island for the past few days. Mount Agung, a volcano in the island, recently erupted, sending huge plumes of ash into the air towards the end of November. The island’s Ngurah Rai International Airport had to be closed for two consecutive days, upsetting travel plans of thousands of visitors to Indonesia’s top tourism spot. Airlines and hotels waived off cancellation charges while the airport was closed. Chaudhuri, who is travelling with his wife, could not get a waiver, and flight cancellation charges are high. “We have decided to continue with our plans,” he said. Besides high cancellation charges, the challenge facing travellers is the struggle to immediately find another destination and book it at this time of the year when flight and hotel rates surge. But things may turn worse, volcanologists warn. Travellers are being advised to carry volcano survival kits. Those having asthma are being told by experts to reconsider plans.
Masks are reportedly being distributed around the island to help travellers protect themselves from ash and smoke.“Bali is among the fastest growing international travel destinations for Indians in South East Asia. December being the peak travel season, travel for Bali has shown nearly 600 per cent growth over last year,” said Mohit Gupta, chief operating officer at online travel company MakeMyTrip. About 150 Indians travel through MakeMyTrip every day to Bali for holiday. “In the wake of closure of the airport due to the recent volcanic eruption, all airlines had waived off cancellation penalties and offered full refund for travel between November 27 and December 4. There was a surge in cancellations during this period but it has gone back to normal with travellers going ahead with their holiday travel plans. Any cancellation after the Denpasar Airport was reopened will involve applicable cancellation charges”, Gupta added. About 250,000 Indians are estimated to visit Bali every year. Indonesia has a free visa policy for Indians and airline connectivity has improved in recent years. Sharat Dhall, president at online travel firm Yatra, said there were limited cancellations. “We just saw around five per cent cancellations. We are surprised that not many people opted to cancel. We have no cancellations for next week’s departures and have significant bookings for the next six months. Fresh bookings also continue to take place,” said Dhall.