Bali, as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, depends on the tourism sector for economic survival. Millions of tourists from around the world and all across Indonesia visit Bali every year to soak up the sun, learn about the unique culture and indulge in the hospitality of the island and its people.
On the streets of Bali’s leading tourist destinations, over the last few months, things have proven to be turbulent at times. There has been increasing tension between certain groups of tourists behaving disrespectfully and, at times, criminally, and the government, local leaders, and Balinese communities.
Bali’s Governor Wayan Koster has made a big announcement to start the week. He has announced a series of proposed policy changes that would seriously impact tourists, digital nomads, and potentially even ex-pats on the island. The new proposed policies would certainly stamp down on illegal, disrespectful, and dangerous behavior in an undeniably impactful way.
Governor Koster started his announcement by confirming that the proposed policy changes have been in the pipeline for some time and are not a reactive response to viral videos and conversations online. There has been an increasing amount of content shared online in recent weeks of tourists in Bali behaving badly.
Everything from screaming at police officers while being reprimanded for not wearing a helmet, to hit-and-run collisions, from setting up illegal photography businesses to acting as tour guides. Governor Koster is clear that the new law changes have been carefully considered and drawn up with sufficient evidence to justify such big changes.
During the press briefing, Governor Koster said, “I want to give a note. I act not because there is a viral sorry. There is no influence from that viral; this thing we have been doing since before Covid-19. But, to open this [situation], we cannot rush. I confirm this, and we have handled it for months. But the way we work, we share it openly on social media. Because there is something we have to take care of and have made sure everything is done with violations with strong evidence, and then we act. This, only the first and subsequent actions will follow again.”
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So, what changes is Governor Koster proposing? The first proposed legislative change is to withdraw the visa-on-arrival for Russian and Ukrainian citizens. Governor Koster said, “I have written to the Minister of Law and Human Rights to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to revoke visas on arrival for Russian and Ukrainian citizens who want to go to Bali. Because the two countries are at war, they are not comfortable in their country. They are also busy coming to Bali, including people who do not travel and also return to find comfort, including to work.”
He also alluded that other countries currently on the VOA list, of which there are eighty-six, may also be struck off.
Governor Koster noted that there is a correlation between foreigners from these two nations and the rise of cases of tourists driving mopeds without helmets, clothes, or licenses, driving recklessly, making fake identity documents, and in some cases, even faking residency permits, or conducting activities not permitted on tourism visas.
It is the second legislation change that would have a more widespread impact on tourists and business owners in Bali. Governor Koster is tabling a legislative change that would ban all foreigners from renting motorcycles in Bali. He said, “So those tourists have to travel, walk, and use cars to travel. It is no longer allowed to use a motorcycle or anything that is not from a travel agent.”
He continued, “Why now? Because we are improving right now. If, during the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is impossible for us to do that because there are no tourists, now it is starting to be arranged.” During his initial announcement, the Governor did not outline whether there would be exceptions for some foreigners who have the correct licenses, for example. He did confirm, however, that he wants these changes to be written into law this year.
The final legislative change Governor Koster announced was a reiteration of the provincial government’s commitment to crack down on foreigners working illegally or operating businesses illegally in Bali. He said, “Regarding economic crimes, including those that we forbid doing this type of business. Moreover, the visa is not for work but a visa for tourism. It is not allowed to do business activities in Bali Province.”
Governor Koster concluded, “Our mitigation departments have formed an integrated team to carry out joint operations together in all areas of Bali, especially in Badung Regency, Denpasar City, and in Gianyar. Because there are many cases there and the most foreigners there. But we do everything carefully so as not to be counterproductive to our efforts to restore Bali’s tourism and economy.”
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