Last week's 8.7-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, which killed 1,300 people, had no notable impact on Java, Bali or Lombok, the three most popular Indonesian tourist spots; airports, resorts, roads, dive operations and other attractions are all open. But should South Pacific travelers worry that the earthquake, rumbling so closely behind the Dec. 26 tsunami, signals a boost in ground-shaking events for the near future?
Michael Blanpied, associate coordinator of the U.S. Geologic Survey's Earthquake Hazard Program, called the March 28 quake a "well-anticipated event," but not so predictable that anyone could have pinpointed the time, place and magnitude. Geologists are now examining two areas of concern, he said: the Sunda Trench boundary, which parallels the west coast of Sumatra, and another large fault line running through north Sumatra, under land near Banda Aceh.
But while Blanpied cited "good precedence" of multiple earthquakes along the same fault line, including two major events in Turkey in 1999, he said there is not enough information to say whether another one will hit soon.
Bottom line: There's no reason for prospective travelers to Java, Bali or Lombok to change their plans at present. "There might be some shaking on Java" if another quake occurs, Blanpied said, but there is no evidence that another temblor along the active faults would seriously threaten those destinations.
Yes? I Said Yes?
CoGo recently discovered that a long-held charge card had been dinged for $7 a month, to the tune of $133 total, by a company called Reservationrewards. com. The problem: CoGo didn't remember ordering the service. Turns out the charges stemmed from making an online hotel reservation, when CoGo unwittingly clicked "yes" on "Congratulations. Get your $10 cash back and money-saving coupons. Click yes now."
Here's how it works: Reservationrewards.com's parent company, Webloyalty, hooks itself to a willing host's Web site. Those who buy travel products from the host site -- and the list of past and current host sites includes such heavy hitters as Priceline.com and Hotels.com -- are encouraged by a $10 cash-back offer to sign up for Reservationreward's services, which include two-for-one restaurant coupons and other discounts.
Up for debate is how forthcoming Webloyalty is about the service's cost. Webloyalty president Vince D'Agostino maintains that the company clearly states the charges when a person signs up, andsends follow-up emails. In CoGo's situation, the company sent e-mails, but only one cited the cost, and that was in the fine print.
Webloyalty's strategy is apparently successful: Revenues were $86.2 million in 2004. But last week, the Connecticut Better Business Bureau gave it an unsatisfactory rating, "due to a pattern of complaints concerning deceptive marketing/selling practices and unauthorized charges to consumers' credit cards."