02 August 2016

Does Bali want Chinese tourists?

There is an old Chinese saying that warns: Be careful what you wish for, it may come true! Ironically, this saying is sadly apropos of the situation that currently confronts Bali tourism with Mainland Chinese (PRC) tourists now the second largest source of foreign visitors after Australians. Aided by a liberalized visa-free policy that includes Chinese travelers, plans for more air charters connecting the PRC with Bali and a national tourism policy that is hell-bent on putting quantity before quality - we can only expect Chinese tourism numbers visiting the Island to grow even more in the months and years ahead. And while the enthusiastic Minister of Tourism Arief Yahya can be seen thumping his chest in self-congratulation when discussing rising tourist totals, we pray leaders in the national tourism sector may find time to pause to examine what are the actual long-term effects and costs of this policy?
The average length of stay for tourists in Indonesia in 2015 was 7.5 days, a figure that is down 39% when compared to the 12.26 days recorded 15 years ago in 2000. Meanwhile, operators and tourism leaders in Bali are complaining that while Chinese tourists to Bali are growing apace, their impact on the Island’s economy is diminished by the low spending patterns of Chinese travelers. As a result, PRC tourists are flocking to economy hotels, eating inexpensively in Chinese restaurants or in their room, demonstrating little interest in local handicrafts and not proportionately atttending Balinese cultural presentations.The changing composition of Bali’s tourism market mix has left the Island in an anomalous situation of recording record numbers of tourist arrivals while, at the same time, seeing local cultural performances and handicrafts producers closing due to a lack of customers.
Overwhelmed by mounting trash, traffic congestion, water pollution and an accompanying shortage of electrical power and water, Bali’s tourism future can only go from bad to worse unless policymakers quickly bolster and supplement the Island’s infrastructure BEFORE blindly seeking and welcoming even more tourists to Bali.

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