Tourism businesses in Bali have been reminded once again to respect and care for domestic tourists. As data continues to be collected on the impact of travel and tourism on Bali’s economy in 2023, it is increasingly clear that domestic tourism will always remain essential to the island’s revenue.
In mid-2022, tourism businesses were warned by ministers to respect domestic tourists after incidences hit the headlines where business owners were found to be untrusting of domestic tourists and putting too heavy a focus on attracting only international visitors.
The Chairman of the Bali Tourism Village Communication Forum, I Made Mendra Astawa, has told reporters that domestic tourists to Bali are a ‘loyal’ market that should not be overlooked. He highlighted how domestic tourism played an essential role in the recovery of the tourism sector in the wake of the lockdown.
He said that domestic tourists, both Balinese citizens and Indonesians from across the country, all play a vital role in the tourism industry on the island. He said the domestic tourist market “is a loyal market, which is loyal to Bali tourism.”
Astawa continued, “the rural atmosphere and various local wisdoms that are unique to each tourist village [and they] are prepared to invite more [domestic tourists] to Bali”. Indonesia has over 270 million people; domestic tourism will always hold incredible potential for Bali. That said, is an underlying feeling within some tourism businesses in Bali that the priority focus should always be on international visitors.
Some hold the view that international guests, especially those from Australia, North America, and Europe, will spend more than domestic tourists. However, with Indonesia’s middle-class continuing to grow and as domestic travel becomes increasingly accessible and affordable in Indonesia, the domestic tourism market should be valued just as much as the international market, especially for small businesses.
Minister for Tourism and Creative Economies, Sandiaga Uno, has also spoken publicly this week about the importance of domestic tourism and the economy in 2023. At his weekly press conference, he said, “Indonesia will still grow by around 5 percent. Of course, we must focus on encouraging the movement of domestic tourists to reach the target number of 1.2 billion to 1.4 billion. We will greatly encourage the movement of domestic tourists”. His statements came as he also called on airlines to lay on more international flights to Bali to help recession-proof the Island for the Gods.
For tourism villages like Pinge Village in Tabanan, domestic tourism is essential as the community’s programs grow and evolve. Pinge Village offers a ‘live in the village’ tourism program where visitors can stay with a local family as a part of a homestay experience.
While the community has big ideas for the project, they have told local reporters how homestay hosts’ language skills hinder the expansion of the program. The Head of the Pinge Anak Agung Tourism Village Management Board, Ngurah Putra Arimbawa, said that the community currently welcomes around 200 homestay visits a month, with many coming as part of school trips.
For now, it is easier for domestic tourists to enjoy the experience to the full as not all the homestay hosts speak English. He said, “the guests are directly placed in residents’ homes. So the community’s readiness to accept foreigners with this program is still lacking…For foreigners to Pinge, even though they are not optimal, there are already several people who are active in the language.”
He said that progress on the language front is slow and steady. He added, “We will continue to push, and encourage tourism villages that have not been maximized.”
While there are certainly similarities in travel trends and demands of domestic and international visitors, there are significant differences too. This requires tourism businesses and community-based tourism programs across the Island to market their offerings differently to each demographic to maximize success.
Over the Christmas and New Year holidays, domestic tourists to north Bali complained about the high price of hotels in the Lovina resort area and told tourism officials that facilities needed to be improved to warrant the comparatively high room rates.
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