One of the top reasons tourists cite when asked about why they want to visit Bali is the culture.
The Island of the Gods is home to one of the most unique cultures in the world, but some leaders feel tourism is starting to threaten its longevity.
Officials in Bali have come together to discuss the future of tourism on the island.
As leaders have been calling for a shift towards more sustainable and culturally respectful tourism, following a rise in badly-behaved foreigners in 2023, there is an opportunity for Bali to redefine what cultural tourism means in practice.
At a summit titled ‘Continuous Bali Tourism Development Meeting Challenges and Solutions’ the island’s leading tourism stakeholders came together to redefine what Balinese cultural tourism must look like moving forward.
They also discussed how to tackle the internal and external challenges tourism and culture experience on a small and large scale.
The meeting was chaired by Regional Representative Council Member Made Mangku Pastika who has proposed that the redefinition of cultural tourism must come before any further changes to the tourism sector are made.
Pastika told reporters about the challenges tourism in Bali is facing at this time.
He explained, “External challenges include the length of stay of foreign tourists which is getting shorter because more and more foreigner tourists from Bali then continue their journey to Labuan Bajo and Lombok.”
He noted that traffic congestion, waste management, and crime are also issues that need great attention and resources if Bali’s tourism sector is to uphold its reputation worldwide.
These are all issues that officials in Bali are openly acknowledging need to be addressed urgently.
Pastika and his peers also discussed the issue of over-tourism, though they rejected the statements made by the World Travel and Tourism Council report that claimed the island has already reached the point of over-tourism.
The report also stated that Paris, Venice, Athens, and Phuket have all toppled over the precipice into overtourism.
Tantowi Yahya, the President Commissioner of Kura Kura Bali, told reporters how cultural tourism has changed in recent years.
Yahya explained “Now Balinese culture has changed a lot. For example, many Balinese dances are no longer accompanied by a live gamelan. There are also fewer and fewer green open spaces. I hope that the Governor of Bali in the future will have a policy that is in favor of sustainable tourism.”
The Acting Governor of Bali, Sang Made Mahendra Jaya, was also in attendance at the conference.
He called for a united approach to promoting cultural tourism in Bali and noted that this unity could have an impact bigger than the sum of its parts.
Acting Governor Mahendra Jaya said, “Changes occurring in Bali’s tourism climate require the involvement of all parties to help maintain the sustainability of Bali tourism.”
“As hosts, our duty is to maintain and preserve all the tourism potential that we have, then provide good service to all tourists, in accordance with the cultural customs we have so that tourists feel safe and comfortable traveling in Bali.”
The Acting Governor concluded “In an effort to maintain the sustainability of Balinese cultural tourism I invite all parties to collaborate together to carry out tasks according to their respective roles in maintaining the preservation of Balinese culture, preserving Bali’s natural environment and improving the quality of Bali’s human resources.”
There are dozens of businesses and initiatives in Bali that focus on promoting Balinese and Indonesian culture in a respectful and sustainable way to tourists.
It is entirely possible to visit Bali and experience the island away from the tourism offerings that cater to the mass market.
Whether it’s respectfully visiting lesser-known villages and temples, staying at locally run honesty’s or even top eco-hotels, and opting for excursions and activities that focus on farming, connecting to the land, and learning about Balinese culture in a reverential and respectful way, there is so much potential for culturally respectful and sustainable tourism as default in Bali.
Organizations like Potato Head Bali, Mana Earthly Paradise, Astungkara Way, Usada Ubud, Bambu Indah, and so many more have been blazing the trail for sustainable and regenerative tourism for all.
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