Once considered a quiet tropical island paradise, Bali’s Kuta Beach and surrounding inland streets have become holidaymakers’ bright and bustling honeypots. In pre-pandemic years, Kuta was one of the busiest areas of the resort island, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors every month.
While Bali’s tourism industry is definitely back on business after the horrors of lockdown, business owners in Kuta are concerned that the tourism masses are starting to favor areas like Canggu over classic Kuta.
Although the peak season of June, July, and August is firmly over, and there is a natural lull in arrivals from mid-September through to the Christmas holidays, Kuta should still be pumping. Instead, streets are deserted, and nightclubs, bars, and restaurants are far from operating at capacity.
While there are certainly more tourists in the area than in 2020 and 2021, when borders were closed, local business owners and tourism staff have noted a serious decline in visitor numbers since the peak season ended.
There are a number of factors that the tourism sector in Kuta has noted as influencing the situation. Firstly is simply the popularity and novelty of areas like Canggu. Thousands of families will happily return to Kuta year after year. Yet, just as many young families, couples, and groups of party-mad young travelers have been lured in by Canggu’s vibrant nightlife and modern tourism offering. There are dozens of new cafes, restaurants, and beachclubs. As well as Instagrammable shops selling genuinely appealing products to tourists, and heaps of accommodation options that fall into the affordable luxury category.
@atlasbeachfest Replying to @Citra Bagaskara @Steve Aoki CAKE ME 4 | 📍 ATLAS BEACH FEST, Bali, Indonesia🇮🇩 #steveaoki #atlasbeachfest #atlasbeachclub #bali #indonesia #canggu #neverstopflying #hwgevent #musicatatlas #lifeatatlas #cakeface ♬ original sound – Atlas Beach Fest
Another reason is safety. Business owners in Kuta have told reporters that Kuta is making a bad name for itself after a series of phone thefts in recent months. Sugi, a local guide, chatted with reporters about his experience as a tour guide in Kuta. He openly explained, ‘When I take guests, many ask to go to Canggu. Very few people ask to go to Kuta. Especially for young tourists, they like Canggu…There is a sense of insecurity in Kuta. Theft often occurs. So now when it’s quiet like this, tourism actors tend to [leave]’.
@itsmeridz_79 Mood Vacay on😅 #fypシ #ticktockmalaysia #kualalumpur #bali #vacation #indonesia ♬ original sound – Ain K.
Sugi’s feelings have been echoed by the Head of the Badung Regency Tourism Office, I Nyoman Rudiarta. He acknowledged that there had been a series of phone thefts in the area and that tourists did not want to be pestered by hawkers and even child beggars. He explained, ‘From our search results, there are indeed some small children who incidentally or what we call gepeng [homeless and beggars]. There is coercion to buy them. Their trade is in the form of tissues and hair ties’.
He said that although the tourism office was aware of these issues and worked to ensure that children don’t end up in these kinds of situations, in recent weeks, incidences of begging tourists on the beaches have been increasing. Previously most incidences were being reported along the surrounding streets.
Efforts are underway to ensure that Kuta remains safe for everyone and that tourists can enjoy the beaches without disturbances from hawkers. Local community leaders are working in partnership with local police to increase patrols on the streets, especially around busy times of night when thieves have been operating.
There are also conversations being held at a local government level to change how Kuta Beach is managed. There are hopes that an entry fee will soon be introduced, requiring international and domestic visitors to pay to use the beach. This way, local leaders hope, they can create designated areas for hawkers to have their own stalls to sell their wares so that, in turn, tourists can enjoy the beach in peace.
Naturally, tourism trends change and evolve, and even the Tourism Minister wants to shift the focus of tourism operations away from Bali’s southern coast. Canggu has indeed undergone its transition from a destination for a few intrepid surfers and backpackers to a digital nomad, indie hotspot to now welcoming more general tourists and holidaymakers.
What this means for areas like Kuta remains to be seen. No doubt, business owners will evolve their offerings to encourage tourists back to Bali’s first major attractions.
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