Bali has been hitting international headlines recently, but not always for the best reasons.
A surge in cases of tourists behaving badly on the island has led to authorities introducing a series of policy changes, and some tourists have felt a hint of hostility come their way as a result of the actions of a tiny minority.
Bali has long been one of the world’s most in-demand travel destinations. But as tensions have reached a fever pitch this year between a small minority of badly behaved tourists and concerned local citizens, some Bali lovers are reevaluating where they want to spend their vacation time.
This is a conversation that has been playing out online and IRL. It only takes a quick look at the comments section of social media accounts for Bali lovers to see how many returning visitors are starting to feel like destinations like Phuket in Thailand may be more welcoming than the Island of the Gods.
It is not only tourists who are worried that Bali’s famous hospitality is starting to wear thin.
Nyoman Astama, who is the Managing Director of Pacific Holidays DMC, has shared his concerns with reporters. Astama is calling on the tourism sector in Bali to make a conscious effort to prioritize friendly service to all visitors.
Astama said, “We have to be aware that Bali is not alone [as a destination].” With travel within South East Asia easier than ever before, tourists have plenty of options to choose from. Right now, Bali’s biggest competition is Phuket, an area of Thailand also undergoing a post-pandemic surge in popularity.
@fruitingbodypodcast 🇹🇭PHUKET vs. 🇮🇩BALI ✅️Which place is better to live long term as an expat? #phuket #Bali #phuketvsbali #Thailand #Indonesia #digitalnomadbali #digitalnomadthailand #nomad #expat #fruitingbodypodcast ♬ Chill Vibes – Tollan Kim
Atsama shared, “Bali clearly has many competitors in seizing tourists, both local and foreign tourists. For the ASEAN region, Phuket is one of Bali’s competitors, which can be said head to head. Based on the calculation of the distance to one of the market segments, namely the European region, Phuket is clearly closer than Bali.”
He added, “Automatically in transportation calculations, in this case, airplane tickets to Phuket are, of course, more competitive. Because the distance is closer.”
Yet, Astama feels that Bali has something more to offer tourists than Phuket. He explained, “When it comes to cultural arts, it is clear that we, Bali, are superior because it is indeed unique.”
This is something that Bali’s provincial leaders want to see promoted to tourists from around the world. Bali’s Governor Koster has acknowledged that the island is entering a new era of tourism which will place arts, culture, and the environment front and center.
Governor Koster wants to see culturally dignified and sustainable tourism become the new standard across the island in the wake of a series of culturally disrespectful and illegal acts by foreign tourists on the island.
@klookanz Which holiday are you choosing? Thailand 🇹🇭 or Indonesia 🇮🇩 #klook #travelaesthetic #traveltok #thailand #indonesia #bangkok #phuket #chiangmai #bali #seminyak ♬ ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah – Da minibenz
Astama is calling on the hospitality and tourism sector to really prioritize the friendly and kind service the destination is so famous for.
This warmth and generosity of spirit is what sets Bali apart as a destination and cannot be forgotten as the new era of tourism starts to unfold.
He explained, “Hospitality is not just a tagline, but a behavior and reality on the ground. I think that’s what must be [used] to the advantage of Bali tourism, so tourists can still enjoy visiting Bali.”
It is not only Astama who is concerned that Bali lovers will start exploring their options for a vacation in Phuket or similar destinations in South East Asia.
Many tourists note that the free visa on arrival in Thailand vs. the paid-for visa on arrival in Indonesia has been a deciding factor in their travel plans, especially those traveling for a family vacation. But it is not only visas that are influencing vacation plans.
Earlier in the year, the Deputy Governor of Bali, Cok Ace, voiced his concerns about how flight availability to Bali was negatively impacting the post-pandemic recovery.
Bali Airport is now operating many more flight routes than at the beginning of the year, with more services due to open soon.
The General Manager of I Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport revealed last week, “We are intensively coordinating with relevant stakeholders in order to open new routes to Bali. So, we are optimistic that we can provide services to 20 million passengers in 2023.”
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