In recent weeks there has been an explosion of opinion, outrage, and action against ‘naughty’ foreigners in Bali.
From deportations to restorative justice meetings to fines for bad driving, some have observed that the island has become a hostile place for tourists.
In reality, hostility is mostly a symptom of online dialogue. Local leaders have assured tourists that they are welcome in Bali; they’ve just got to stay ‘classy.’
Speaking at a meeting for the Regional People’s Legislative Council of the Province of Bali (abbreviated DPRD Bali) about the issue of bad tourists, the Chairman of the DPRD Bali, Nyoman Adi Wiryatama, made his feelings clear.
Wiryatama told provincial leaders, “We need tourists, but tourists who are classy, not tourists who throw tantrums.” His comments appear to be in reference to the dozens of viral videos that are circulating online of foreigners in Bali arguing with police and pecalang (village security) about where they can and cannot go, driving recklessly or driving without safety equipment.
He continued to call for tough action against foreigners who broke the law in Bali. Adding, “We ask the police, law enforcers, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights to take firm action against tourists for this behavior. If necessary, just deport from Bali.”
Many people online are calling for immediate deportations of any and all foreigners caught breaking the law in Bali, disrespecting local culture, and in some cases, even the slightest misdemeanor.
Last week, as the dialogue around ‘bad bules’ reached a fever pitch, officials from Indonesia’s Department of Immigration said that they have always worked around the clock to take action against foreigners acting illegally in the country — noting that viral videos and online dialogue do not have an influence on their work.
In a statement to the press, the Head of the Immigration Division of the Regional Office of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Barron Ichsan, explained, “If it is said that there is an assumption that immigration only works when it goes viral, that answer is not true.”
He revealed that 194 people were deported from Bali in 2022, the majority of which were not covered by the media.
It seems that the dust is starting to settle, and more and more people are in agreement that the recent actions of the government are making a difference. The representative for Buleleng Regency told the hearing committee
“We believe the government has taken steps to try to control tourists who are disturbing. We support the government to deal with the phenomenon of tourists throwing tantrums, of course, with the existing rule.”
The rules are pretty clear, pretty simple, and really do make sense. Obey the actual law, respect local culture, and remember that you’re a visitor to Bali.
The conversations that have happened in public in the last few weeks have been a long time coming, but they should not be considered as a reason not to visit Bali.
There may have been a few dozen viral videos and a slight increase in public deportations, but in reality, not much has changed in Bali. It’s simply playing out in the open. Foreigners behaving badly are being held to account as they always have done.
Unfortunately, there have been cases of foreigners acting up in Bali for decades. While it is never acceptable, and some may argue, things have become wilder of late, the day-to-day reality for tourists in Bali feels much the same as it always has; welcoming, relaxed, and enjoyable.
The vast, vast majority of visitors in Bali continue to respect, revere and enjoy their time on the island. There are millions of international and domestic visitors that arrive in Bali every year, and less than 1% end up being deported from the country.
So, how can tourists in Bali ‘stay classy’? This, too, is not a new conversation. For years, tourism stakeholders have been calling on the sector to encourage high-quality tourism.
In fact, last year, the Indonesian Minster for Tourism and Creative Economies, Sandiaga Uno, said that he wanted to see a shift towards a more sustainable and exclusive model, using the highly controlled tourism system in Bhutan as an example.
Here are three simple ways to stay classy as a tourist in Bali;
- Remember who you are and where you are; a visitor on a deeply spiritual island.
- Respect local law and local culture; drive safely, dress appropriately, and communicate with humility.
- Enjoy! Enjoy your time in Bali; try everything, smile, have fun, see the positives and encourage others to do the same.
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