The Indonesian Ministry of Finance has announced that revenue from alcoholic drinks has increased. The growth, although small, is being taken as a positive sign of recovery for the hospitality sector, which is still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.
The news that alcohol sales are increasing in Bali may come as good news for the economy, but this week warnings of the dangers of alcohol on the island have been renewed. The warnings are far-reaching. One has been issued by a tourist who made an expensive error while misreading a drinks menu. The other warning has been issued by a coroner in the UK who concluded an inquest into the death of a British woman in Bali from methanol poisoning last year.
The Ministry of Finance claims that the increase in the volume of alcoholic beverages sold reflects the ever-improving Indonesian economy, especially in the tourism and hospitality sector. The tax generated from the sale of alcoholic beverages by the end of January 2023 amounts to IDR 0.43 trillion. Although in many parts of Indonesia, drinking alcohol is considered taboo, in Bali, Governor Koster is actively trying to promote the healthy consumption of traditional Balinese arak.
The food and beverage industry is one of the most important aspects of Bali’s tourism economy. Governor Koster is on a mission to improve the public image of traditional Balinese arak as an artisan product. He has even created Bali’s Arak Day, which has been written into legislation as an official day of celebration. Speaking to the national news agency when he announced the launch of Bali Arak Day.
Governor Koster frequently calls on hospitality businesses to promote arak products, whether that be through creative cocktails or as a premium spirit for tourists to take home as a memento of their visit to Bali. Koster has shared his preferred arak tipple, telling reporters, “I personally routinely drink coffee arak without sugar. The taste is so delicious and makes the body healthier, and I can work until late in the day.”
While the sensible consumption of alcohol plays a key role in Bali’s tourism economy, one coroner in the UK has reiterated warnings for tourists to take extreme caution when drinking in Bali. At the conclusion of an inquest into the death of British national Kirsty McKie in Bali as a result of methanol poisoning, Senior Coroner for Greater Manchester South, Alison Mutch, is calling on officials to launch a public awareness campaign to alert travelers to the dangers of drinking spirits in Bali.
Coroner Mutch issued a public statement with the inquest’s findings. She wrote, “Kirsty Margaret McKie was a UK national who lived and worked in Bali. She ran a successful business as a talented ceramicist. On 22nd July 2022, she consumed what she believed to be alcohol. The following day she felt unwell. She went to a hospital in Bali where she deteriorated and died on the 24th of July 2022 despite treatment.”
The statement continues, “[McKie] had inadvertently consumed methanol believing she had consumed alcohol. The methanol had been sold as being alcohol fit for human consumption when it was not and caused her death.”
Coroner Mutch has urged the UK authorities to create a public awareness campaign, like that of Australia, to warn travelers about the dangers of methanol poisoning. She described methanol positioning as a “growing problem” in Bali. She also noted, “Knowledge of the problem amongst the expatriate/tourist community was very low despite the increase in the problem and the catastrophic consequences of methanol consumption”.
Anyone who suspects they have become poisoned by methanol must seek immediate medical attention. Experts on the issue often recommend that travelers stick to alcoholic beverages such as pre-mix bottle cocktails, beers, and wines.
When it comes to ordering drinks off the menu, one traveler from New Zealand has taken to social media to warn others about a simple mix-up he made that cost him a small fortune. He told an online travel group that he misinterpreted the currency on the menu and ended up ordering a bottle of wine costing AUD 1700, not IDR 1,700,000.
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