Bali: A Resort Island’s Development on Auto Pilot?

Bali: A Resort Island’s Development on Auto Pilot?

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Bali Discovery recently ran three articles in close succession of interviews with three Balinese tourism experts on the state of tourism development in Bali. Shortly after The Jakarta Post ran an article on water shortages attributed to tourism growth and Aljazeera followed with a video ‘Bali tourism under threat‘.  It’s clear that without an enforceable and sustainable tourism master plan a successful destination eventually succumbs to the tragedy of the commons. Bali is not alone. The situation in other regional locations is not as acute yet. The solutions are straightforward but the political will is the tough part. I will not be surprised if the situation gets far worse before it starts getting better.  Can tourism destination development ever be managed well? Yes, and Boracay shows the way. See here.

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An Island on Auto-Pilot

Academic and Tourism Leader Warn Bali is Doomed without a Clear and Well-Enforced Master Plan for Tourism


The rector of the Tourism Faculty at Udayana University, Dr. I Putu Anom, warned on Friday August 24, 2012, that if Bali continues on its current path of developing its tourism product without the aid of a Master Plan the island is fated to become a cheap destination.

As reported by Bali Post, Anom warned: “This is no master plan for the development of tourism. If zoning is not established, the development of tourism will take place in a helter-skelter fashion.”

He bemoaned that the government is largely helpless to have any impact on the laissez-faire fashion of current development. Moreover, existing prohibition such as “no build green zones” and setback distances from rivers and seashores are ignored by government officials at the behest of investors.

In some instances described by Anom, investors are allowed to build projects with no permits or licenses at all. This results in an invisible tourism economy where it eventually becomes impossible to accurately count the number of hotel, villas and rooms available on the island.

He regretted that the present development of tourism in Bali is only concerned with pursuing quantity of visitors by building as many cheap accommodation venues as possible, with no reference to the resulting impact on the quality of the natural environment or towards an organized building plan for the island.

He went on to describe how Bali is reaping the results of no development planning with traffic jams and a degraded natural environment. The tourism academic fears that, left unaddressed, this situation will eventually destroy Bali’s appeal as a world holiday destination.

Calling for a clear concept on tourism development with a well thought out master plan, Anom said any development must reflect the carrying capacity of each region and seek to protect its natural environment.

‘What most important,” he warned, “is a commitment by the government and officials to enforce and execute the rules that exists.”

The same warning was sounded by another tourism practitioner, Ketut Ardana. He said the current concept for tourism development in Bali is unclear. He feels that the island is pursuing mass tourism, building new accommodation at breakneck speed with no reference to carrying capacity.

Said Ardana: “Don’t let Bali seek 7 million tourists if the carrying capacity is only 4 million! There must be a resolve to sell destinations beyond Bali such as East and West Nusa Tenggara.”

He outlined the problem of oversupply now taking place in Bali where hotel prices are being heavily discounted, creating, in the end, an image of the island as a cheap destination.

Both men said Bali must create a sustainable tourism product that does not sacrifice the natural environment or the destination’s natural appeal. They also called for accurate statistics on tourism, removing the inconsistent and uneven numerical reports currently produced by the government.

First and foremost, they warned, Bali tourism must be managed under one-island management system.



Bali is Choking on its Own Success

Senior Tourism Leader Warn That Survival at Stake in Bali’s Current Oversupply of Accommodation


Bali Daily (The Jakarta Post) quotes a Bali tourism industry veteran, Anak Agung Gede Rai, blaming declining occupancy rates of between 60 and 65% on the uncontrolled growth in hotel rooms.

Moreover, Rai says the state of lowered occupancy among Bali hotels has rendered the hotel business “quite unprofitable” and, as a result,  threatens the very survival of many members of the hotel industry.

Rai, who manages at Masari Villa and once served as the President Director of the Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC), says an excess of rooms in star and non-starred hotels, and villa segments have contributed to an over-supply of accommodation that is depressing both hotel rates and occupancies.

The senior travel professional expressed his dismay that Bali, despite strong arrivals, was actually experiencing a business downturn. He said that average occupancies of at least 70% were needed for most hotels to remain profitable and be economically sustainable.

The rate war now underway, according to Rai, makes business survival for hotels in Bali problematic.



Is Bali Tourism Wrong Minded?

Senior Academic Warns that Bali Needs a New Mindset for Tourism Development


The head of the Center for Cultural and Tourism Research at Udayana University, Dr. Agung Suryawan Wiranatha, told the State News Agency Antara that Bali needs to change its mindset on tourism development, moving away from a focus on quantity to quality tourism.

“It is no longer appropriate that our regions is only targeting growth in tourism arrivals. What’s important is that we begin enhancing the quality of our destination and its attractiveness to visitors in order that Bali can be sold with a higher price,” said Suryawan, while speaking at a tourism seminar held at Udayana University on August 15, 2012.

The tourism educator estimates that Bali added 16,000 hotel rooms during the period 2009-2011. Such a rate of growth, however, he claims is out of synch with the reality of Bali’s limited natural resources, limited land, limited water and limited electricity.

Continuing, Suryawan said that the future ability of Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport to handle tourist visitors is also limited due to that facilities provision for only a single runway.

He also cited the heavy accumulation of accommodation in South Bali and the impact this is having on unhealthy price competition and the numerous illegal tourism operators are detracting from the quality of Bali’s image as a tourism destination.

“In the midst of these challenges, the tourism mindset and how tourism is managed must be changed in order that Bali can have a sustainable tourism product,” said Suryawan.



Tourism industry responsible for water crisis in Bali: Expert

Sep 07, 2012  The Jakarta Post


JAKARTA, Indonesia – As tourism in Bali enjoys a robust period, the island is struggling to cope with diminishing water resources that have been over-exploited to meet the increasing demand for clean water for tourist-related facilities, while the industry has done little to solve the problem, a study concluded.

Prominent British academic Dr. Stroma Cole, a senior lecturer in tourism geography at the University of the West of England, conducted months of research on the causes and the consequences of the scarcity of water in Bali, which are already causing serious social conflicts and burgeoning environmental problems.

Cole presented the results of her comprehensive study in a book entitled A Political Ecology of Water Equity and Tourism – A Case Study from Bali. She shared parts of the study with Bali Daily.

Cole is the former chair of Tourism Concern, a London-based non-profit organization, which is actively promoting ethical tourism worldwide.

“Bali is an important case study because 80 percent of its economy depends on tourism and tourism depends on a healthy water supply,” the academic said.

Tourism in Bali provides 481,000 direct jobs, directly employing 25 percent of the workforce and supporting more than 50 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), according to the Bali Statistics Agency.

Bali, she wrote, was also important as it could be considered as a laboratory example of the world’s best tourism.

Water, she said, was recognized as one of the most critical and scarce resources for tourism, an industry renowned for its overuse of water. In Bali, she said, tourism absorbed 65 percent of the island’s total water supply.

“In many tourist destinations, including Bali, the availability of water is reaching the crisis point and the impact of tourism on hydro-ecology is high,” said Cole.

Bali’s water crisis results from a number of interconnected factors —environmental and political factors that intersect and affect different social actors in different ways.

“The current situation results in the distribution of water being skewed away from agriculture to tourism; inequitable shares between tourists and locals. Moreover, the mobilization of water in Bali for different uses by different groups is indeed a conflict-ridden process.”

Unfortunately, most tourism stakeholders were unaware of the need to conserve water, she regretted.

“The impact of the over-use of ground water by tourism is being felt all over Bali; a falling water table, salt water intrusion, land subsidence and deteriorating water quality,” she stated.

The competition for water is felt the greatest in agriculture. This causes a variety of conflicts for rice farmers. There is conflict between those who manage the water, the Pekaseh (head of the subak organization), and the village that allows tourism development or sells water to the bottled water refill operators.

According to Cole’s analysis, another significant impact of the water crisis is its effect on the poorest and most marginalized members of society. It was these people whose hand-dug wells ran dry, but could not afford to be connected to the city tap-water supply (PDAM).

The latest data shows that 1.7 million out of Bali’s 3.9 million population have inadequate access to a supply of clean water.

Previously Djinaldi Gosana, executive director of the Bali Hotel Association, explained that four- and five-star hotels operating on the island needed at least 50,000 liters of clean water every day, not to mention the usage of water by non-starred hotels, villas and new types of accommodation, including apartments and condotel (condominium hotels).

“Additional pressure comes from the increasingly diverse and sophisticated requirements for water to service tourist facilities for more affluent and demanding clients, such as the increasing number of high-end spas, and villas with their own pools and Jacuzzi,” added Cole.

Mass tourism, she added, was a water-intensive industry, and the level and pace of continued development in Bali could not be sustained.

Since it opened for mass tourism in the New Order regime of president Soeharto in the early 1970s, the number of hotels and tourist facilities has rapidly increased.

In 1987, there were only 5,000 hotel rooms in Bali, while by July 2012 the number of rooms had surged to 90,000 rooms, according to the Bali tourism agency.

“Water scarcity in Bali is a sociopolitical phenomenon and the solutions lie in policy and management change,” Cole concluded. Bali shouldn’t wait until 2015 to deal with its water woes. “The water crisis is already on your doorstep,” she warned.



Bali tourism under threat

The idyllic Indonesian island’s reputation is being tarnished by over-development, pollution and traffic.



Beauty of Bali under threat from pressures of mass tourism

Boom in visitors to island paradise places strain on natural resources and the local Hindu culture

For years Bali, the pearl among the Sunda Islands, has been touted as an earthly paradise, thanks to the its tropical landscapes, its white sandy beaches, the tormented beauty of its Hindu temples and its inhabitants’ reputation for kindness and tolerance.

But this idyllic spot may soon be a thing of the past, with the threat of Bali – population 3.5 million – changing beyond recognition, a prey to the accumulated effects of mass tourism, unbridled consumption of resources and environmental collapse.

“From the 1970s onwards Bali really became a tourist destination,” says Wayan Suardana, head of Walhisimilan, a conservation group campaigning for the environment. “But to begin with it was mainly cultural tourism. Now we are seeing mass tourism. And that’s a problem.”

Hundreds of hotels use up a large share of freshwater reserves, with each four-star room consuming 300 litres a day. “By 2015 Bali could be facing a drinking water crisis,” Suardana says.

More than a million visitors came to Bali in 2001. The figures for 2011 suggest that numbers have more than doubled since, ultimately unaffected by the 2002 terror attack, which left 202 dead, including many Australians. Every year 700 hectares of land is lost to hotels, luxury housing for rich foreigners or just roads to improve connections on the island. Every day some 13,000 cubic metres of waste is dumped on public tips and only half is recycled. With 13% more cars on the roads every year, the steadily increasing traffic causes massive jams.

In an attempt to mitigate the ill effects of mass tourism on the local Hindu culture – an exception in largely Muslim Indonesia – the authorities have introduced environmental legislation. One of its provisions makes it compulsory for resorts to be set back at least 150 metres from beaches, with no hotels within 5km of Hindu temples.

So far this initiative has made no difference. Efforts to decentralise government in Indonesia – a patchwork of 17,000 islands with a population of 240 million – have given a disproportionate share of power to the bupati (elected high sheriffs), who run areas roughly equivalent to a British county. The bupati are not in favour of the new law. “The law on environmental protection has been passed but the bupati, who have financial interests and are hand-in-glove with property developers, have done all they can to prevent the law from being enforced,” alleges the deputy leader of Bali’s regional assembly, Ketut Adnyana.

“Local leaders have no long-term perspective,” he adds. “They want a quick return on investments and tourism allows that. The irony is that one day, when development has reached a certain level, visitors will no longer find what they seek here.”

In January 2011, the governor of Bali, Made Mangku Pastika, issued a ban on new buildings in heavily developed areas, warning that Bali was in danger of becoming a sterile land bristling with concrete. The ban is far from popular with investors.

“Tourism is partly due to the attraction of our culture: if mass tourism develops in a way that threatens our culture, we will lose our specific attraction,” says Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya, head of the Bali tourist board and the owner of a hotel at Sanur, a prime destination.

“We have used culture as merchandise,” says poet and theatre director Ketut Yuliarsa, a native of Ubud. He is horrified by the turn of events. “The Balinese are deeply attached to their religion and culture: they spend a lot of time in the temples and respect the ritual. But mass tourism has upset such practices: the diversity of local cultures and the specific character of certain rites are being harmonised. Foreigners are offered a standardised package,” the poet explains.

It is all the more difficult to halt such trends, because the travel trade does have a positive side. “People are better off, living standards have improved. Many Balinese are unaware of the changes going on,” Yuliarsa says.

“Four-fifths of Balinese society is deeply committed to daily worship,” says Audrey Lamou, who headed the Alliance Française on the island for several years. “But some youths, who must pay a form of monetary compensation to their village when they cannot attend ritual gatherings, are fed up with such strict rules.”

At the same time, “the Balinese are increasingly obsessed with easy money,” Lamou says. “Institutions such as gamelans [musical ensembles] are dying out and the Balinese language is gradually losing ground to the official language of Indonesia. With such massive changes it sometimes looks as if, in cultural terms, the population is heading for disaster.”

Compared with other holiday venues in south-east Asia, Bali has retained much of its magic, at least in the areas so far spared by mass tourism. But if nothing is done to halt current trends, it may suffer the same fate as other dream destinations.
Photo: jschavez84

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