Mount Agung travel warnings are scaring off tourists

The governor of Bali has urged countries, including Australia, to lift their volcano-related travel warnings after 70,000 tourists cancelled their October travel plans.

On Thursday Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika also joined hundreds of Balinese to pray at a Hindu ceremony at Besakih - Bali's holiest temple - even though it is located in the heart of the danger zone.

Mr Pastika met on Wednesday with Consuls General in Bali and stressed that only 28 villages within a 12km radius of the summit would be affected if Mount Agung erupted.

"The population is about 70,000. All of these people have already evacuated so the place is empty. If something happened, even if an eruption happened today, I guarantee there will be no victims."

He emphasised popular tourist spots such as Kuta, which is 72 kilometres from Mount Agung, and Nusa Dua, would certainly be safe and even those in the Candidasa area need not worry.

The government had prepared contingency plans in case Ngurah Rai Airport was closed and tourists would be transported to other airports such as those in Surabaya or Lombok.

"If a travel warning were already issued, I hope it would be lifted immediately," Mr Pastika said.

Several countries, including Australia, updated their travel advisories after Mount Agung was raised to the maximum alert level on September 22. That followed increased seismic activity which indicated molten rock known as magma was being pushed towards the surface.

The Australian government's travel alert warns of the potential for ash to fall outside the declared danger zone surrounding the volcano. It says an ash cloud could affect flights and cause widespread disruption to travellers.

The Singapore government says: "Given the possible eruption of Mount Agung, Singaporeans should defer non-essential travel to the affected areas at this juncture."

The head of the hotel and restaurant association in Bali, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, said the travel warnings had taken their toll on tourism with numbers down about 20 per cent for October.

"In numbers this is around 70,000," Mr Sukawati said. He said the cancellations mainly came from those coming to Bali for meetings or conventions.

"The Governor said it is not in his capacity to lower the warning status of the volcano, but we hope if there's a change in the status, in November there will be an improvement," he said.

Asked if the Australian government was considering updating its travel advisory, a DFAT spokeswoman said: "The Australian Government is monitoring reports of volcanic activity at Mount Agung in Indonesia. Australians in the area should monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities."

Between 6am and midday on Thursday there were 93 shallow earthquakes, 113 volcanic earthquakes and 18 tectonic earthquakes. White steam was observed about 50 metres above the crater.

Gede Suantika from the Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said Mount Agung's status had not changed and remained at the highest alert.

"Our recommendation is the same - that a 9 to 12 kilometre radius be clear of activity," he said.

"We will continue to monitor the situation."

The Bali Hindu Association issued a statement on Wednesday urging all Hindus to pray simultaneously at noon on Thursday for the peace of the universe.

"And also pray to Ida Syang Hyang Widhi Wasa (Almighty God) for Mount Agung not to erupt or if it does erupt for it to bring good for the people," the statement said.

Mr Pastika joined hundreds of Hindus who prayed at Besakih, known as the mother temple, on Thursday. Some food stalls reopened to sell snacks and drinks to the worshippers.

Asked why he was risking the red zone, Mr Pastika said: "The governor is like the elder in a community. I will go there with a sincere and sacred heart, praying for our people to stay safe."

This story Mount Agung travel warnings are scaring off tourists first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.