Bali’s top academics are sounding the alarm on the risks of allowing investors to continue ‘wildly developing tourism’ on the island.
They are calling for an urgent review of spatial planning in the province to ensure that things do not get out of hand, for the sake of communities, natural landscapes, and tourists themselves.
The Chairman of the Warmadewa Research Center, Dr I Nyoman Gee Mahaputra, has told reporters that the ‘wild’ development of tourism facilities in Bali has to be brought under control. Dr Mahaputra shared, “Bali tourism is always undergoing a reinvention process, trying to create new things.”
He continued, “As a result, the development of tourism accommodation facilities has spread everywhere.” Dr Mahaputra said that for the last one hundred years, since the first tourists arrived in Bali, there has never been a clear direction for tourism development on the island.
He noted that the development of resorts like Nusa Dua, Kuta, Sanur, and Ubud was driven by the interests of tourists, rather than a strategic process.
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Speaking from Udayana University, lecturer I Made Sudarma shared his concern that tourism development is having an increasing impact on the environment, including the occurrence of natural disasters.
Noting the current island-wide drought, Sudarma said, “When it rains are humans ready to capture rainwater and store it for the future? [No] Meanwhile what is happening now is that deforested areas are becoming more widespread and land conversion [for tourism] is becoming more widespread.”
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He suggested that Bali is being too easily lulled into the “sweetness of tourism cake” noting that natural resources on the island are being exploited for economic development but without consideration for community welfare.
He concluded, “We never take into account how big the profits and losses are, we never do it fairly.”
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Dr Mahaputra wants to see far more transparency in the tourism sector, something that tourists themselves have also noted is something they would like to see, especially when the new tourist tax is introduced on the 14th of February 2024.
Dr Mahaputra explained that extensive data must be gathered on how much benefit Balinese people get from tourism, and it should be available in an open, centralized database.
He added, “It’s possible that tourism profits have only flowed to big investors who are not Balinese.”
He is calling for stricter law enforcement regarding existing legislation on spatial planning and land conversion.
He said, “Don’t blame outsiders for destroying Bali, but it is the Balinese who must reflect on themselves, but don’t make excuses for [giving] permissions from the center and so on.”
“If we have a strong commitment [to the law] it should be easy to minimize [illegal tourism operations] even though it cannot be zeroed out, at least it can be minimized.”
Dr Mahaputra concluded that rigorous spatial planning is required across Bali and must before enforced if communities, tourists, and the natural landscape are to be able to thrive in the future.
He concluded, “We forget that tourism is indeed delicious but our tourism is about prioritizing culture and nature.”
“And we are proud of the number of tourist visits. The more tourist visits, the herder the exploitation of natural resources, but are the benefits we get greater or neutral or even diminishing [as Balinese people].”
Leaders from Bali’s most popular tourism village, Penglipuran Village in Bangli, have spoken openly in the last week about how the community risks becoming a victim of its own success.
As a community and tourism destination, they are calling on the provincial government for more support to ensure that tourism across the island is sustainable.
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