BALI, Indonesia (AP) — A decade ago, Bali's famed white sand beaches and popular shopping areas were deserted as visitors scared off by terrorism shunned the "island of the gods."
The dark cloud of the suicide bombings that killed 202 mostly foreign tourists in 2002 lingered for years, decimating one of Asia's top tourist destinations. But the Hindu-dominated resort island has worked to overcome that image and is sending a message to the world this week that it's now on a Bali high by hosting leaders and more than 8,000 delegates, business people and journalists at the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.
"We have to move on," said Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika. "Many international events in Bali have restored confidence of the Balinese."
Tourism has bounded back. More than 1.8 million foreigners arrived in Bali each year prior to the attacks, which caused the numbers to dive. But last year nearly 3 million visited the island, which was also boosted after Julia Roberts filmed on location for the movie "Eat, Pray, Love."
The tourism recovery also has a downside, with the rapid development of hotels and massive golf courses sapping natural resources and water supplies. The quaint Bali beloved by travelers who came here years ago has also been overtaken by massive commercialism, a lack of planning and frustrating traffic jams.
For APEC, in a sign of the island's growth, visitors were welcomed at a new international airport terminal and driven on a just-opened toll road that runs 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) over the ocean to the exclusive resort enclave where the meetings are being held in Nusa Dua. A World Trade Organization meeting will also be held in December on Bali.
But the threat of terrorism has not vanished entirely. Just a week before the forum opened, Bali hosted the Miss World finale after the government moved the event at the last minute from the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta, following weeks of protests from hard-line Muslim groups.
Miss Philippines was crowned Miss World without incident, but security was tight after members of the group threatened to disrupt the event and travel warnings were issued by the U.S., Australian and British embassies for citizens traveling to the island.
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