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As Bali volcano leaves travelers stranded, some worry future tourists will stay away

Key Points
  • Passengers in Bali's airport were stranded for a second full day as the Mount Agung volcano here continued to spew ash
  • Outside of the airport on Tuesday morning, many local drivers were soliciting rides to other transit points for around $200
Bali's volcano: We visited the surrounding area as officials call an eruption 'imminent'

BALI, Indonesia — Passengers in Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport were stranded for a second full day as the Mount Agung volcano here continued to spew ash and authorities called a potential eruption, "imminent."

The airport has been closed since Sunday night, impacting flights from Singapore Airlines, AirAsia, Qantas, JetStar and others.

An estimated 17,000 Chinese tourists are currently in Bali and China's consulate in Indonesia has said it will arrange 100 buses to take tourists to catch ferries for the nearby island of Java.

Stranded at the airport

Patrice Copeland and two friends were on vacation in Bali and planning to fly to Singapore Monday morning, where they were hoping to see the sights before heading home to the U.S.

"I don't live in Bali, so I haven't been watching Bali news for the past three months, so I didn't know there was a volcano," she said.

Copeland said she's been moving her luggage around the airport every few hours.

When CNBC spoke with her Tuesday morning, she had been there for more than 24 hours and had no information about when she might be able to leave.

Some airlines have been providing full accommodation at nearby hotels, while others have left passengers, including Copeland and her friends, on their own.

"Perhaps I'm spoiled coming from the states, but I would have expected, if not a hotel accommodation for everyone on the flight, at least a comfortable space in the airport," Copeland said. "Yesterday I spent all my time bouncing from restaurant to restaurant just to sit."

Copeland had not yet heard if the airport will open Wednesday, "They're not saying anything," she said. "I was just told, 'There's lots of restaurants around, you can go and sit.'"

She looked into a ferry option to get out of Bali, but said she thinks it would be a risk. Some stranded passengers are taking a roughly 11-hour trip to Surabaya, which involves a one-hour ferry ride. From that city, travelers can find flights to Singapore or Jakarta.

Outside of Bali's airport on Tuesday morning, many local drivers were soliciting rides to Surabaya from Bali for around $200.

Clearing skies?

Although CNBC's calls to Bali's airport officials were not immediately returned, a spokeswoman for Bali Tourism Board said that the airport should reopen Wednesday at 7 a.m. She cited the island's recent rainfall, which has cleared some of the ashes.

Gilda Sagrado, the tourism spokeswoman, said her team is looking after 2,315 guests since the closure of the airport. The Bali Tourism Board, she said, is working with more than 300 hotels to give complimentary nights to some of those stranded.

She declined to comment on the volcanic eruptions' potential impact on the December tourist season.

Impact on tourism

The island of Bali sees more than four million tourists annually, and income from that industry is a major source of income for many residents.

"The volcano is unpredictable, and the airport will be closed if the eruption happens," Yongky Darmawan, a tour guide and driver told CNBC.

"The government status is level four so tourists from other countries are worried and receive a warning before coming here," he added.

Darmawan said he has already seen a dip in interest in Bali. "The eruption in 1963 has caused about one year of issues." he said.

Because of the potential disruption to tourism, he said he is worried about his expenses, including paying his house rent, car rent and supporting his child.

The volcano could be especially difficult on tourism leading into the holiday season: "My friend has a villa business and says that all guests are cancelling for New Year's too," he added.