Is Bali safe?

"Hey Aussie! The Japanese are surfing your bloody waves…"

"The Italians are drinking your bloody beer…"

"The Germans are laughing in your bloody pool bars…"

"Aussie, where the Bali are ya?!!!!"

That’s the new ad produced by Balinese tour operators aimed at getting more Australians to visit Bali.

And let’s hope it works. Cos Bali certainly doesn’t deserve to be shunned cos of an undeserved reputation as a dangerous tourist destination.

First of all, it is important to realize that tourists face many other dangers apart from being blown up by a terrorist bomb. Just by going through our daily routines we expose ourselves to risk. We could for example, be killed in a road accident. According to the US Embassy in Jakarta, accidents on rented motorcycles constitute the largest cause of death and serious accident among foreign visitors to Bali.

We also expose ourselves to the threat of crime, and even the risk of murder. According to a British Home Office survey, Washington DC has one of the highest murder rates of any developed country city (with a murder rate of 69.3 per 100,000 population), and is an astonishing 170 times more dangerous than the Belgian capital, Brussels. Thus judging by this criteria, should there not be warnings on travel to Malaysia (dangerous roads) and Washington DC (high homicide rate)?

But what makes bomb blasts different from such risks is that we cannot measure the likelihood of such an event occurring again in the future. There is only uncertainty.

Risk can be quantified, either from common knowledge (we know that a spun coin will come up heads 50 percent of the time), or from empirical data (murders are far more common in Washington than in say Brussels). But because we can quantify risk, we feel more secure. This explains why tourists still decide to visit cities with high crime rates such as Rio de Janeiro, or even choose to drive on dangerous roads when pissed out of their minds while on holiday.

Uncertainty, on the other hand, is different. Uncertain events cannot be analyzed since they are too irregular, or too unique. As such, we have no way of knowing where or when or by what means the terrorists will strike again. This uncertainty scares us. We cannot make rational deductions about what is safe and what is dangerous, and have nothing to go on but our own judgment.

As such, it is impossible to say that Bali is safe. But equally, it is also impossible to say that anywhere is safe. Is a future terrorist attack more likely to happen again in Bali than anywhere else? The simple answer is that noone knows.

However, Bali is not famous for being a safe tourist destination without reason. Potential visitors should try to keep matters in perspective – they are probably far more likely to get killed in a road accident or plane crash than by a terrorist bomb.

Don’t let the terrorists win! Go to Bali now!


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