As a destination, Bali proudly boasts something for everyone. While the resort island has become famous for beachside holidays, spiritual self-development, and natural beauty, there is an untapped tourism market that locals are keen to bring to the fore.
Sport tourism in Bali is emerging as a growing market on the island. Sports tourism is hotting up in areas along the southern coast, especially around Seminyak and Canggu. With gyms, sports bars, boxing centers, and other recreational facilities popping up left, right, and center, the area is becoming a destination for sporty travelers.
One such sports niche catching the attention of local entrepreneurs and sporty travelers is the world of mixed martial arts, Muay Thai, and kickboxing. Canggu, in particular, has burst onto the scene as a leading destination for budding martial artists to hone their craft. The area was steadily building a name for itself before the pandemic, but now that borders are reopened, business is booming.
Now gyms like Soma Fight Club in Canggu are on a mission to make the industry keeps growing. Areas like Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak offer plenty of sports bars for travelers to enjoy. Now there is a shift to get travelers to participate themselves.
Speaking to local reporters, the manager of Soma Fight Club and Gym, Walianto Teo, explains how he wants to see kickboxing, karate, boxing, and MMA continue to grow in Bali. He said, ‘This self-defense is only for entertainment or fun. But in the future, it can also develop towards forming outstanding martial arts athletes’.
Teo has big aspirations. He wants to see Bali become as established for sports tourism as other counties in South East Asia, namely Thailand. He said, ‘I want to develop a tradition of regular matches, like what happened in Thailand. In that country, people routinely every month and even every day appear in the ring doing self-exercise after participating in sports in fitness centers’ Having trained in Thailand himself, Teo feels he has a good understanding of the potential that Canggu has as a destination for the sport.
The General Chair of Bali’s Sports Agency KONI, I Made Nariana, said that she is actively working to promote sports tourism in Bali, especially in Badung Regency. She wants to see sports tourism develop on the island for the good of international relations and to help promote sports for local people. MMA, karate, boxing, and Muay Thai are increasingly popular among local people, especially young men in Bali.
For travelers, both the visa on arrival and the B211a socio-cultural ‘digital nomad’ visa allows foreigners to participate in recreational sporting events and training in Indonesia. This is excellent news for amateur athletes who want to come to the island to train and even compete in ‘friendly’ competitions.
Sports tourism has also been highlighted by Tourism Minister Sanidaga Uno as a market that needs more attention, not just in Bali but across Indonesia. Although he is keenly promoting Bali as a destination for ‘serenity, spirituality, and sustainability’, he has also committed to promoting the province as a destination for international conferences, media events and establishing more sports tourism opportunities.
Bali recently won the bid to host the World Beach Games in 2023, which is hoped will be a great opportunity to promote even more sports across the island. Of course, Bali has long been home to some of the most significant surf events in the world. While the island will not want to see these disappear, they have laid the foundation for more sports tourism opportunities to be developed in the future.
It is hoped that sports development can continue to grow from the grassroots upwards. Bali has dozens of recreational sporting facilities, from running clubs to boxing gyms, from CrossFit centers to yoga studios, surfing, skating and swimming. Sports tourism is set to boom in Bali in the next few years.
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