Saudi king's Bali beach holiday turns
into military exercise
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[March 03, 2017]
By Fergus Jensen
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - A Bali
beach holiday for Saudi Arabia's King Salman and his considerable
entourage has turned into a military exercise for host Indonesia.
The octogenarian monarch and his entourage of 1,500, including 25
princes and 10 ministers, flies on Saturday to Indonesia's Bali island
aboard nine passenger jets for a private vacation. They will be guarded
by at least 2,500 police and military personnel, as well as naval
vessels parked offshore.
The king's Boeing 747-jet will be met at the airport by his usual gold
colored escalator. Flown in ahead of the visit were two plane loads of
cargo, including plates, carpets and two bullet-proof Mercedes, said
customs official Budi Harjanto.
King Salman's tour of Asia aims to build the kingdom's ties with
fast-growing Asian economies and drum up investment to diversify the
Saudi economy away from dependence on oil. The extravagance of his
official trip, punctuated by holidays, comes after an austerity drive at
home caused by low oil prices.
On the white sand beach in front of Bali's St. Regis resort, one in a
row of five-star hotels where the Saudis will stay, two meter (7-foot)
high screens have been put up to shield guests from prying eyes. A
wooden staircase has been built for the royals to access the water.
"There will definitely be marine security because there's a section of
beach where the (king) will be staying," said Bali's Udayana military
chief Major General Kustanto Widiatmoko.
Widiatmoko said six ships would be deployed along with anti-terrorism
police and snipers, adding he hoped security would not impinge on the
Saudi group's privacy.
The king's vacations have been controversial at times due to the
disruption they caused. He cut short a 2015 French Riviera holiday after
local outrage erupted when the public beach at Vallauris was shut and
concrete poured on the sand for a temporary lift.
After kicking off his Asian tour in Malaysia on Feb. 26, King Salman
will also visit Brunei, Japan, China, the Maldives and Jordan on his
month-long swing through the region promoting the kingdom as an
Asia's top oil supplier plans to privatize state assets, cultivate
non-oil private sectors and open its markets to foreign investors, after
a plunge in oil prices slashed state revenues and opened a gaping budget
deficit. A hallmark of the plan is to sell shares in state oil giant
Saudi Aramco, which Saudi authorities have said could raise up to $100
billion, in what would be, by far, the world's biggest listing.
The king's three-day state visit in Jakarta this week focused on
building cultural and religious ties and promoting education, as well as
efforts to contain radical Islam in the world's most populous Muslim
Secular Indonesia has grown increasingly concerned about security, after
several attacks over the past year blamed on supporters of Islamic
Islamist militants bombed a nightclub in the Bali resort of Kuta in
2002, killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.
[to top of second column]
Indonesian soldiers are seen on armoured personnel carriers during a
security briefing ahead of the arrival of Saudi King Salman bin
Abdulaziz al-Saud and his entourage in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia
March 3, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Nyoman
Budhiana/ via REUTERS
MIDDLE EAST TOURISM
Bali's business community is hoping the king's visit will encourage
more Middle East tourists to visit the "Island of the gods".
"When they find out that the king and his entourage have come to
Bali, they will realize that Bali is a world-class tourist
destination, so automatically they will think about coming to Bali
as tourists too," Ketut Ardana, chairman of the Bali branch of the
Indonesian Travel Agents Association (ASITA) told Reuters.
Mila Artini, a representative for the Blue Bird taxi group at Bali's
Ngurah Rai International Airport, said the Saudis had booked the
group's entire fleet of limousines up until the end of the king's
visit on March 12.
An additional 200 Mercedes limousines had been brought in from
Jakarta for the visit, said Arif, a Muslim taxi driver, who said the
Saudis would be welcome in predominantly Hindu Bali."The religion
here is different, but that's no problem because there are also a
lot of Muslims here. There's halal food in all areas," he said.
Indonesia aims to more than double the number of Muslim tourists it
received last year to 5 million by 2019, said the head of the
Indonesian tourism ministry's Halal Tourism Development and
"Other than the large number of potential visitors from Muslim
countries, their spending power is also larger," said Riyanto
Sofyan, noting Muslim tourists spend around $1,700 per visit,
compared to $1,100 on average by other foreigners.
On the approach to Nusa Dua, a peninsula on the southern tip of Bali
where the king is staying, police in fluorescent vests checked cars
at an impromptu checkpoint.
While not especially brought in for the Saudi visitors, the beach at
Nusa Dua does have something to make the visitors feel right at home
Minarto, who runs camel rides in front of the Hilton Bali Resort,
said the Saudi group had requested 100 half-hour rides.
"We're busy and they wanted too many. We only have a limited number
of camels," said Minarto, who looks after five camels brought in
from Australia years ago.
(Additional reporting by Fransiska Nangoy in JAKARTA.; Writing by Ed
Davies. Editing by Bill Tarrant.)
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