Bali is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
Offering the full spectrum of tourism experiences, from the ultra-luxurious to the shoestring, from the mountain tops to the coral reefs, from family-friendly holidays to the soul-searching solo journey, Bali’s tourism industry offers it all.
For years now, political leaders and stakeholders in Bali’s tourism sector have been calling on the industry to introduce meaningful sustainability practices to ensure that the sector reduces environmental harm and evolves in alignment with traditional Balinese values.
Nevertheless, the tourism sector is a multi-billion dollar industry like any other and is ultimately fuelled by supply and demand.
The sector has a responsibility to be a tastemaker, but without catering to the demand of visitors, the industry would collapse.
So as Bali moves ever further from the period of introspection provided by the pandemic, is there meaningful demand for the sustainable travel opportunities that political leaders and stakeholders want to see more of?
2023 Tourism Targets
Indonesia’s Minster for Tourism and Creative Economies, Sandiaga Uno, has set clear targets for tourism arrivals in 2023 and outlined the ways in which the country’s leading destinations will attract more visitors. Minister Uno says he wants to see 7.4 million international arrivals in 2023.
The Bali Tourism Office has been told by Bali’s Governor Wayan Koster that the provincial target for international arrivals is 4.5 million, still less than the 6 million average annual international arrivals before the pandemic.
Speaking at the time of the announcement of the 2023 tourism targets, Minster Uno explained, “This can be achieved if the focus is on two strengths, namely nature, and culture. In addition, tourists with special interest in ecotourism, spiritual tourism, and religious tourism”.
More recently, the Deputy Governor of Bali, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, also known as Cok Ace, has called on the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) to prioritize investment in developing sustainable tourism practices.
He told representatives of the PHRI, of which he is also the Chairman, that “investment should not damage Balinese nature, Balinese society, and Balinese culture.”
Cok Ace also noted that the supply and demand for accommodation is not evenly spread across Bali and that this generates issues in regard to sustainability practices across the province.
In some areas, there is so much demand that quality and adherence to sustainability values move away from being a priority so as to capitalize on the opportunity. In other areas, demand is so low that sustainability values are also compromised in a bid to generate any revenue possible.
Pending Ban on Mountain Activities
In order for sustainable tourism to become a universal standard practice across Bali, legislation is key. Change can come from the top down as well as the bottom up.
There is an increasing amount of legislation being implemented to ensure that ‘Balinese nature, Balinese society, and Balinese culture’ are protected.
Discussions are underway to implement heavier controls of tourism activities on Bali’s sacred mountains.
Following a series of sacrilegious events, spiritual leaders in Bali are working in partnership with the provincial government to draft new policies that will limit tourism activities on Bali’s sacred mountains to preserve the landscape’s spiritual nature.
Introducing Rules for Dolphin Watching
Sometimes in the transition to sustainable-as-standard, supply and demand meet in the middle. In the popular resort town of Lovina in North Bali, new legislation is being drafted to better manage the dolphin-watching tours on offer in the area.
The new regulations are being designed to create standard operating procedures that not only ensure parity for tour operator tariffs but also prioritize visitor safety and the health and well-being of the dolphins and their fragile ecosystem.
The new regulations will stipulate that boat operators must stay 25m away from dolphins, not block their direction of travel, nor chase them to get a sighting.
The move comes as tour operators have agreed that standard operating producers would benefit their business and as tourists are taking to social media to highlight the unethical practices of some tour operators who harass the dolphins in a bid to please their guests.
Demand For More Than Beachside Relaxing
Then there is the demand for sustainable travel experiences from travelers themselves.
Speaking from Jakarta in December 2022, the Deputy for Marketing of the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Ni Made Ayu Marthini, talked about travel demand trends the department had observed and would be responding to in the year ahead.
She said that more and more travelers to Bali are seeking a “high-quality destination…filled with activities”.
She noted that travelers want to do more than just relax at the beach and that there is increasing demand for meaningful tourism activities that align with the values of younger travel demographics, especially adventure, experiential, sustainable, and even regenerative travel.
She said, “the age range of [tourism] market consumers in Indonesia is currently dominated by the millennial generation who are hungry for knowledge and information that is interesting, concise, and clear. So, as a means of promotion, it must be catchy, concise, clear, and full of pictures”.
Even with just three examples (of which there are many more), it’s clear to see the relationship between supply and demand and sustainable travel offerings. It is clear that there is demand and an even clearer intent to supply sustainable tourism opportunities.
This poses the next question, with many environmental issues hitting the headlines in Bali, can the transition to sustainable-as-standard happen quickly enough?
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