The Deputy Governor of Bali, Tjok Oka Artha Ardhana Sukwati, also known as Cok Ace, has expressed concern over the rising price of flight tickets to Bali. This is not the first time the Deputy Governor has highlighted the issue. Last month, he called on the central government to subsidize international flight tickets so that tourism would continue to flow to Bali, not other parts of South East Asia where fares were cheaper, like Thailand.
Speaking in Badung Regency earlier today, 22nd September, Cok Ace expressed his frustration that airfares are rising with little kickback from the Bali tourism sector. He said, ‘We can see it from domestic tourist visits especially. In the past, domestic tourists [numbers] were very far [ahead] of foreign tourists, but now they are squeezed. Sometimes foreign tourists fly only 10,000 per day and domestic 11,000 per day’.
Cok Ace is concerned that recent airfare increases will negatively impact the momentum gathered by the tourism sector. Currently, mass tourism is going strong in tourism hotspots like Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak. Other areas like Sanur, Nusa Dua, and Uluwatu welcome visitors regularly too. The Nusa Islands have also received a fair number of visitors daily, between 1000-1500. Cok Ace is concerned that this momentum will be lost if airfares continue to rise.
Bali is currently well on track for hitting tourism targets by the end of the year. Closer to hitting the international visitor target of 1.5 million than their domestic arrivals target of 6.5 million. The increasing airfare is affecting domestic tourist numbers most noticeably. Tourism Minster Sandiaga Uno has given Bali tourism providers stern warnings to treat domestic tourists with respect after reports that moped rental shops were declining business from local visitors.
Domestic tourism is vital for Bali’s economy. Cok Ace is acutely aware of this and has confirmed that he has been in contact with the Ministry of Transport for support. He told reporters that he has asked for assistance in airfare reductions, starting with domestic travel.
Speaking at the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center, Cok Ace said his concern was that the decline in arrivals would be ‘imperceptibly’ slow. If authorities do not take action now, numbers might decline before solutions take effect. He said, ‘We don’t feel the decrease because, on the one hand, we are promoting [Bali], on the other hand, there is a counter-productive ticket price’.
He explained that the provincial government is intensively working to promote tourism and the island’s economic recovery from the pandemic. He said, ‘if we look at the number of foreign tourist visits to Bali, which is 10,000 per day…before Covid-19 this used to be 17-18,000. Around 60-70% have returned, but [it’s not reflected] in the hotel occupancy rate’.
President Joko Widodo heard Cok Ace’s calls for action last month and even called on the Ministry of Transport to investigate what could be done to tackle rising airfares for domestic and international travelers. He instructed ministers to increase the capacity of state-owned airline Garuda Indonesia to encourage travel.
The Minister for Transportation, Budi Karya Sumadi, responded and confirmed that the department is doing all it can to balance airfares and the inflation rate. He said, ‘We are maintaining a balance between capabilities and the transportation sector by not increasing tickets. I have told the Director General that we must talk in detail about how we regulate prices in a detailed context so that inflation in that sector is not too high’.
Tourism providers in Bali remain hopeful that action will be taken to ensure that domestic and international arrivals will continue to rise closer to pre-pandemic levels. If arrivals were to plateau or decline across the board, there could be devastating impacts on the only recently stabilized tourism sector.
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