Just a month after the Chinese Foreign Ministry praised Indonesia and Bali specifically for the provision of mandarin speakers in the tourism industry, the island is facing a shortage of mandarin speaking tour guides. Referred to as a ‘crisis,’ data reveals that the vast majority of mandarin-speaking tour guides in Bali have not renewed their licenses since the end of the lockdown. This puts serious pressure on the tourism sector, which is trying to attract more and more tourists from China.
According to the Regional Leadership Council of the Indonesian Tourism Association (DPD HPI), of the 1,381 mandarin-speaking members before the pandemic, 1,053 memberships have not been renewed. The Chairman of DPD HPI Bali, I Nyoman Nuarta, says the purpose of the data collection was to ensure that active tour guides all have their Tourism Registration Identification Cards (KTPP).
The license cards are issued by the offices of the Governor of Bali through the Provincial Tourism Office and assures the legal operation and competence of guides to fun tours in Bali. Nuarta called on tour guides whose licenses have expired to come forward and renew their licenses so that they can continue to operate their businesses legally.
He noted that tour travel agencies are legally required to hire guides who have licenses and that the majority of Chinese tourists to Bali come to the island as part of the guided tour experience. Therefore, as Bali prepares to welcome more and more Chinese tourists through the provision of more direct flights from mainland China and targeted marketing efforts, there much be ‘no obstacles’ as Nuarta describes.
As tourism leaders in Bali call on tour guides to renew their licenses, the Minister for Tourism and Creative Economies, Sandiaga Uno, has announced that he will not hesitate to revoke the licenses of tour guides and tour operators who are acting outside of good practice. He reiterated his commitment to attracting high-quality tourism to Indonesia.
He called out ‘unscrupulous’ tourism businesses that operate the ‘head-buying’ practice, whereby tourism businesses in Indonesia collude with tourism businesses in China to essentially buy the rights to their clients so that they have what appears to be an all-inclusive tour package experience. In reality, the clients only visit partnered shops, attractions, restaurants, and hotels, putting tourists under undue pressure to spend money at said businesses.
Minister Uno said, “later, we will coordinate, of course, the permit issued by the Governor will be revoked [if they’re found out].” He continued to warn business operators to focus on quality not quality, adding “they only focus on the quantity and if per head there is an incentive, this is what we have to avoid”.
Minster Uno stated clearly that “the practice that only calculates quantity must be abandoned by tourism actors, of course, it must be abandoned…the revival of Bali tourism will be of higher quality if tourism actors [don’t] only focus on lots of tourists from China”.
The Regional Secretary of Bali Province, Dewa Made Indra, has previously spoken out about the bad practice. He said that the buying and selling of exclusive rights to tourists create unfair conditions in the tourism sector. Indra said, “there is competition in the tourism industry, yes, it is a business also. But business must be fair. We should not kill each other but live in support of each other.”
The conversation about the quality of tourism from China comes as the Deputy Governor of Bali Tjok Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, reiterated his calls for more flights from mainland China last week. He said that airlines must operate flights out of key cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen but not overlook the potential that lies in other provinces.
Sukawati said, “other [provinces in China] have great potential because we know that China’s economic growth is extraordinary. There are many newly rich people in provinces that we previously ruled out; we did not take them into account.”
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