The Head of the Bali Provincial Tourism Office, Tjokorda Bagus Pemayun, has told the media about the department’s plans to attract high-earning Chinese tourists when borders eventually reopen. It remains the case that citizens in mainland China remain unable to travel internationally for leisure purposes. Despite heavy restrictions in place, with no sign of them ending soon, Bali is preparing to welcome Chinese tourists as quickly as possible.
Pemayun told reporters that the Bali Tourism Office is planning marketing campaigns targeted at middle and high-earners in China. They believe that this is an untapped market that could generate seriously impactful profits for local businesses. Pemayun said, “This is what we are working on, because the spending money is high. Sleeping or staying overnight is definitely in expensive places. [They] spend money, and the spending is extraordinary [they] take it everywhere.”
The Tourism Office has reviewed the travel trends for Chinese tourists to Bali. Before the pandemic, Chinese tourists typically came from a lower socio-economic background and had an average 3-4 night stay as part of a package deal. Moving forward, the Bali Tourism Office wants to promote the island as a destination for high-spending, long-stay, independent travelers.
When asked how Chinese tourists could access Bali or even international travel, Pemayun said this remained unclear. Noting that only China Airlines, the Taiwan-based carrier, has regular routes to Denpasar. Pemayaun did suggest that many middle and upper-class Chinese citizens are ‘fleeing’ to nearby Japan to live a less restricted life. This could be the key to Bali’s promotional strategy; target high earners residing in Japan across both the Japanese and Chinese demographics.
Bali is already targeting high-wealth retirees from Japan. Specifically through creating the 10-year second home visa (which is available to anyone with over USD 130k in the bank), retirement visa, and the establishment of a retirement community for Japanese citizens in Singakerta Village, close to Ubud. Progress is slow on both fronts, with direct flights from Japan to Denpasar having only resumed in the first new days of November. Nevertheless, progress is happening.
Chinese President Xi Jinping seemed to enjoy his time in Bali during the G20 Summit. He was even seen showing a rare smile, and despite global tensions, the conference ran without any significant drama. Many have shared their hope that a positive review from the Chinese delegation may impact the strict travel restrictions. Yet, nothing has changed so far.
In late August, Bali Governor Wayan Koster received an honorary visit from the Chinese Ambassador to ASEAN Countries, HE Deng Xijun. The meeting was regarded as another positive sign that travelers from China may be permitted to return to Indonesia.
Speaking shortly after the meeting, Governor Koster explained, “We will wait for the return of tourists from China, which before the pandemic was one of the countries from which most tourists came to Bali. I beg the Honorable Ambassador to encourage the Chinese government to allow their citizens to Bali”.
Ambassador Xijun’s response was positive, complementing Bali on the post-pandemic tourism recovery and a nod that tourists may be back sooner rather than later. He said, “I believe that with time and recovery, Chinese tourists will come back to Bali…I also congratulate you on the post-pandemic handling and recovery, which I consider extraordinary so that now conditions are conducive [for the return of Chinese tourists]”.
So despite hints and small incremental improvements in international relations, the return of Chinese tourists to Bali appears to be a long way off. Nevertheless, the tourism sector eagerly anticipates their return and will continue to develop marketing campaigns to ensure that when tourists do return, there is plenty of opportunities to make up for lost time…and profit.
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