Mass tourism has undoubtedly returned to Bali. With the arrival of the G20 Summit and other international conferences, tourism businesses are hopeful that the final leg of the recovery from the pandemic is approaching. But, while mass tourism has returned to areas like Kuta, Seminyak, and Canggu, other areas of Bali are noticeably slow to bounce back.
In the last week or so, accommodation owners in north and east Bali have shared concerns about low bookings for the new year holidays. Now, small business owners in Uluwatu are speaking up about the lack of visitors.
Souvenir shop owner, Nyoman Satriani, has operated businesses around Uluwatu Temple for years. He has told reporters how his income is far from what it used to be before the pandemic. He explained, “Currently, sometimes I get IDR 200,000, but one day I don’t get any sales at all. I have to remain grateful no matter how much I get because I’m still in the recovery stage too”.
He shared that before the pandemic, he was regularly taking home IDR 500,000, sometimes even IDR 1,000,000, in one day during the high season. The lack of revenue can be attributed to tourists spending less and simply fewer visitors to the area overall.
Satriani explained that most of his customers are from Australia, India, and the US. He noted that hardly any domestic tourists and student groups are coming to Uluwatu at the moment. He said, “The most frequently purchased are sculptures, Balinese fabrics, bracelets, or other souvenirs. There are no items that are dominantly sold because the guests have different tastes”.
He told reporters that he opened his stall when Indonesia’s borders reopened in February, having been closed since March 2020. “Initially open guests who come here just have a look. But it’s starting to get busy in August until now…From the beginning of opening until now, it is still not as normal as it was before the pandemic. Sometimes there are people who shop, sometimes they don’t at all”. He shared that if he is lucky, he’ll get one or two customers a day, with sales hitting just IDR 100,000.
Satriani has observed that tourists are spending less and buying fewer items “The problem with sales per day is merchandise that can be sold in one or two pieces. Before the pandemic, you could pocket at least IDR 500,000. Now it’s still not much because it’s not really normal”.
Saran’s experience is almost a copy and paste of the situation faced by food stall owner Ketut Sulastri. She said that although there had been some good days, even good weeks, her overall income is still much lower than in pre-pandemic days.
Speaking from her stall on Suluban Beach, she said, “I just stay at home while waiting for tourism to reopen. Currently, Astungkara is shopping at my kiosk… It’s crowded in the afternoon because someone wants to watch the Kecak dance. Saturdays and Sundays are busier and you can get IDR 300,000 a day,” She admitted to charging different prices for locals, domestic and international tourists.
Sulasri is currently taking home IDR 200,000 a day on average, whereas before the pandemic, she was taking home IDR 500,000 a day consistently.
Yet, tourism officials are convinced that the success of the G20 Summit will be the final piece of the puzzle in terms of economic recovery. But, with a global recession looming, the war in Europe, and the cost of living crisis affecting some of Bali’s highest-spending tourists, the predictions are hard to trust.
The Chairman of the Regional Leadership Council of the Bali Indonesian Tour Guide Association, I Nyoman Nuarta, told reporters that he is looking forward with positivity. He said, “We are optimistic that the future will be better…The G20 Summit is an international indication. Of course, it will affect the potential arrival of foreign tourists…If there are no internal problems in these countries, we are sure that after the G20, many citizens will visit Bali”.
With Bali on track to smash tourism targets for 2022, the real test of the island’s recovery from the pandemic and efficacy in a sustainable future will be seen in 2023.
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