Angry mobs hurling stones, storming buildings and burning cars. 45,000 riot police armed with tear gas and water cannons. Two dozen Islamic State fighters arrested. Seven hundred wounded. Eight dead. Social media censored to stop the spread of fake news.
Images depicting these shocking events were seen around the world when riots erupted in Jakarta on May 21 and 22. The violence followed the announcement of the official results of last month's general election in Indonesia – and unsubstantiated allegations of vote-rigging in favour of incumbent President Joko Widodo.
A week after the riots, the foreign ministries of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia continue to advise travellers to avoid sections of Central Jakarta where the riots took place, including Tharmin Road, home to many of the city's international hotels. Warnings for potential terror attacks also remain in place.
It's the role of the bureaucrats who formulate these advisories to err on the side of caution, and the responsibility of event planners to share all relevant information with their clients.
To get a clearer picture of how the riots are affecting tourism and events in Jakarta, CEI sought comment from some of the city's tourism and event-sector stakeholders.
“It's each country's right to assess risk for their citizens,” said Miriam Tulevski, spokesperson for the Visit Indonesia Tourism Office. “But the impact of these advisories is not significant and people are still travelling to Indonesia.”
Marlene Danusutedjo, communications director at the InterContinental Jakarta Pondok Indah, the city's newest luxury hotel and event venue, said some clients had been spooked.
“As one would expect in such circumstances, we have seen some cancellations and changes to move bookings,” she said. “We understand guests may have concerns and have revised the cancellation policies to offer our guests flexibility to do so.”
She added: “The safety of our guests and employees is our priority and we have increased our security measures in and around the hotel. But our hotel remains open and operational and our teams are welcoming guests as usual.”
Hosea Andreas Runkat, president of the Jakarta Convention Center, said that as the riots coincided with the centre's slowest month of the year, the impact had been negligible.
“Since the riots took place during the holy month of Ramadan, there was no direct impact. And we haven't had a single cancellation,” he said, adding the centre had beefed up security to reinsure planners and delegates.
Rumman Amanda, public relations director at the Four Seasons in South Jakarta, said his hotel has also added extra security staff and contacted planners to update them on developments, “There were a few amendments to event and hotel stays, but most of our clients aren't worried because the demonstrations took place in a different part of the city,” he said. “For us, it's business as usual.”
Tulevski at the tourism bureau voiced similar sentiments: “The Ministry of Tourism encourages all international events to continue as planned. Jakarta is safe for business.