As officials in Bali are working to create new protocols to ensure that tourists are well-behaved while on vacation, some leaders are raising concerns that some digital nomads are also overstepping the mark.
Bali is one of the world’s most popular destinations for digital nomads, but officials want to see a little more respect for the law.
According to representatives from ASITA, the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies Board, digital nomads and other foreign business owners in Bali are at risk of breaking the law.
They have said that they have observed a rise in the number of foreigners using their tourist rental accommodation as an office base, with some specifically running tours and travel services around Bali.
This is a multi-layered issue. First, there is the issue of digital nomads, using properties that are designed as tourist accommodations as formal offices which violates the premises use.
Then there is the issue of digital nomads potentially using tourist or socio-cultural visas to conduct business activities that break the conditions of their stay permits.
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ASITA is suggesting that some foreigners are even working themselves in roles such as guiding, running, or facilitating tours and retreats or organizing travel experiences on behalf of other travelers for profit or gain.
Indonesian law is very clear that anyone on a tourist or socio-cultural visa cannot conduct income-generating work while in the country, and only very specific activities like attending meetings can be conducted on the visa on arrival or the socio-cultural visas.
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Representatives from ASITA met with the National Police Public Relations team to table their observations and request that further action be taken to crack down on foreigners who are blurring the lines and in some cases outrightly breaking the law.
The Chairman of ASITA Bali told reporters after the meeting, “There are also tourist agents from foreigners who use their boarding houses as offices where they work so that these unsuitable permits and locations can be more regulated, because we ourselves, who are official and have permits in accordance with the regulations in Bali, feel disturbed.”
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ASITA also wants to see the police crackdown on local tour and travel agents who are operating similar operations from their homes when they should be splicing for the relevant business permits and licenses first.
Police Commissioner Pol Harry Sindu Nugroho confirmed that moving forward, the police will be working with ASITA Bali to issue sanctions on tourism and travel agents that do not have the correct permits.
He stated clearly, “We will also collaborate with Bali Immigration so that later foreign nationals (WNA) who create problems by becoming fake agents will receive action, we will give warnings and sanctions until the action is violated in accordance with Immigration law.”
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This collaborative approach by Bali Police and ASITA is not an indiscriminate crackdown on digital nomads or foreigners working online while in Bali.
This is a targeted endeavor to implement existing laws that help prevent fake travel agencies, protect Balinese and Indonesian livelihoods, and ensure that tour operators are working within the law.
The Provincial Government is also in the midst of an operation to crack down on illegally operating tourist accommodation providers.
The provincial government has calculated that there is a huge tax deficiency due to the larger number of private villas, guesthouses, hotels, and homestays that have not formally registered themselves as business entities and in some cases not as rental premises either.
Indonesia has long been promoting Bali as a destination perfect for digital nomads.
In fact, in November 2022 the Indonesian Ministry for Tourism and Creative Economies established a partnership with Airbnb to promote the island as a leading destination for digital nomads and remote workers.
The campaign called ‘Live and Work Anywhere’ showcased some of the more off-the-beaten-path destinations to digital nomads and promoted the B211a socio-cultural visa as the most appropriate visa for foreign online workers to stay in Indonesia for up to 6-months at a time.
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