Bali’s Tourism Office has said loud and clear that high-spending tourists will be welcome in Bali, but low-budget travelers are out as the island moves towards promoting more sustainable and culturally respectful tourism. It’s clear money talks.
The Head of the Bali Provincial Tourism Office, Tjok Bagus Pemayun, has literally said that increasing prices of travel and tourism activities in Bali is a ‘natural selection’ of the higher-spending tourists the province wants to attract.
Speaking from his officers in Denpasar this week, Pemayun was clear that moving forward, only some backpackers will be welcome on the island.
He explained, “We also need backpackers but in small numbers. Now, those who go to Bali with very high ticket prices are curated, indirectly natural selection. Selecting tourists who have the money.”
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According to Pemayun and the Bali Tourism Department, there are many sub-sectors of the Bali tourism industry, and the higher end of the spectrum and the more luxurious travel market must be targeted above the budget demographic.
Pemayun said, “The exclusive [resorts] in the Nusa Dua area. There are also homestays in the Kuta area. Sanur, which is middle to upper class, Ubud also has homestays, including in Lovina. So, we have a combination of the two.”
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It seems that Bali wants to price out both lower-budget international tourists and lower-spending domestic tourists too.
The price of domestic flights from Jakarta to Bali is soaring right now. Many expats who work in the capital and middle to high-income earners nip over to Bali for a long weekend as much as possible to get their fix of island life.
In fact, flight search engines are showing that ticket fares are higher than usual despite it being the low season.
Search results show that flights this coming Saturday morning from Jakarta to Denpasar are sitting at IDR 900,000. Garuda Indonesia charged between IDR 1,500,000 and IDR 2,500,00 on Saturday morning. Typically, flights can be as low as IDR 500,000.
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Could Bali be missing a trick discouraging low-budget travelers and backpackers, or in the long run, will it work out for the best?
Backpackers and lower-budget travelers have been plagued by the stereotype that all they want to do is drink and party, but that’s seriously not the case.
In fact, around the world, the amount of young people who regularly consume alcohol is decreasing, and as Bali becomes more expensive, backpackers will, of course, start to look elsewhere.
Travel outside of Bali but within Indonesia is still incredibly affordable.
Will this move to push tourists out of Bali bring benefits to emerging destinations across Indonesia? For the last few years, the National Tourism Board, Wonderful Indonesia, and the Ministry for Tourism and Creative Economies have been encouraging tourists to explore the country’s five super-priority destinations.
These are Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur in Central Java, Mandalika in Lombok, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, and Likapang in North Sulawesi.
These destinations each have a truly unique culture and landscape to explore; while incredibly different from Bali, each destination has an abundance of experiences for tourists to dive into.
Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, for example, is the gateway to the world-famous Komodo National Park, the only place in the world where Komodo Dragons live.
Lake Toba in North Sumatra is a stunning destination in its own right and is also located close to the Leuser Ecosystem, the last place on earth where elephants, orangutans, rhinos, and tigers still roam wild together.
Alternatively, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path destinations in Bali still untouched by mass tourism.
As Pemayun explained, destinations like Lovina and the outskirts of Ubud are still home to locally managed homestays and affordable travel experiences that are often managed in a much more local (and inherently more authentic) way.
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