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Bali Says ‘No’ to Halal Tourism

Bali Says ‘No’ to Halal Tourism

Political and tourism leaders in Bali are taking issue and opposing efforts to transform Bali into a “halal” destination in order to attract more Islamic travelers.

Balipost.com quotes the chairman of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Tourism Think Tank (Ikatan Cendekiawan Pariwisata Indonesia – ICPI), I Putu Anom, who explained that Bali tourism has existed since at least 1974 with many millions of international visitors drawn to visit because of the Island’s rich culture built on Bali-Hindu religious values.

Anom, who once served as Dean of the Tourism Faculty at Bali’s prestigious Udayana University, explained that a diverse group of worldwide visitors has accepted the unique characteristics of the Island. At the same time, a large number of non-Hindu individuals have taken up residence in Bali without prpblem, establishing peaceful and constructive relationships of mutual respect with the endemic population.

Because of this, Anom has joined a chorus of Bali voices resisting the Jakarta-based initiative to rebrand Bali as a halal destination, arguing that Bali’s tourism industry comprised of hotels, restaurants and travel agents have proven that they can professionally accommodate any type of tourism visitors, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Anom’s statements were echoed by another tourism observers, Dr. I Nengah Laba, who said plans to develop Bali as a halal destination includes infrastructure alterations that are, in the end, at odds with the concept and philosophy of cultural tourism already in place on the Island.

The argument to increase income streams put forward by those claiming that Bali's needs to be developed as a “halal destination” is seen by Laba as lacking a relevant or logical basis. In his opinion, Middle Eastern tourism come to Bali because of a desire to see authentic Balinese culture, not to experience “halal tourism.”

Laba who is a founder of the Denpasar Institute, continued, saying Bali’s approach of cultural tourism is embedded in the natural friendliness of the Balinese hosts and is a time-proven method of how to attract tourists to Bali. If the concept of halal tourism is pursued on a direct or indirect basis, this will be a risk obliterating the “magnet” that has drawn visitors to the Island for decades.

Cultural Tourism

The deputy chairman of the Indonesian Hotel General Manager Association (IHGMA), I Made Ramia Adnyana, said separately that Bali’s commitment to present cultural-based tourism is based on practicality, a sense of family, independence, balance, conservation, sustainability, community participation, equity and democracy – all reflecting a Bali-Hindu view of the world found in the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana. Adding: “The branding of Bali is very clear. To pursue ‘halal tourism’ is entirely inappropriate for Bali.”

Moslem visitors to Bali have for years found kiblat direction signs pointing to Mecca in their rooms as an assistance to daily prayers, with many hotels also providing copies of the Holy Koran for Islamic guests. This is done as a simple part of “attention to detail” in providing service to Islamic travelers. This same level of attention is provided to guests from other markets and differing religions to ensure a pleasurable stay for everyone in Bali.