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Bali to Become the Destination of Yesterday?

Bali Tourism Leader Warn that Island Tourism Under Threat from Much More than the 'Just' the Global Financial Crisis.

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A seminar on "The Existence and Prospects of Bali's Tourism Industry in the Midst of a World Financial Crisis" held on Monday, February 16, 2009, issued the warning that tourism on the island is also facing threats from environmental degradation, uncontrolled development and an over-supply of accommodation.

Speakers at the conference, held at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport, included Gde Nurjaya, the Chief of the Bali Tourism Authority (BTA); Chairman of the Bali branch of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agents (ASITA), Al Purwa; the General Manager of the airport's management company, Perum Angkasa Pura I, (PAP1)Heru Legowo; and moderator Alex Pudjonto.

Gde Nurjaya told the audience that despite being haunted by the current financial crisis, Bali still has great tourism potential because of its unique comparative advantage when compared with competing destinations. To support his case for Bali's cultural and natural drawing power, Nurjaya pointed to growing arrival numbers over the past several years and the 2008 foreign visitor totals of 1,968,892.

At the same time, Nurjaya urged the public not be become complacent with their current success, suggesting there exist a number of internal problems threatening the island's future potential. Chief among these problems he cited were environmental damage, uncontrolled development and the varying vision for Bali tourism championed by the various regencies of Bali and the provincial government.

Sounding a similar message, Al Purwa of ASITA said that Bali's tourism policymakers do not speak with a single voice. Municipal and regency governments remains solely focused on how to increase their tax revenues, while the provincial island-wide administration stands alone in calling for management of the island's environment. Purwa said that in terms of investing in Bali's tourism what is permissible and what is not, is never clear.

Purwa, one of Bali's senior tourism managers, also warned that Bali is plagued by poor skills among local tourism workers, an insufficient tourism infrastructure, growing pollution, security concerns and capacity issues. Purwa said that anyone who takes the time to read guest comment forms from local hotels, mass media and other sources will encounter all these complaints. "If this is not urgently addressed, after five years Bali will become the 'destination of yesterday,' said Purwa.

As the manager of Bali's gateway, Heru Legowo acknowledged the strategic position of the Ngurah Rai International Airport. He told the seminar's participants that the PAP I is working to continually improve their services to the public, together with all the other stakeholders found at the airport.

Legowo said: "In a symbolic sense, our commitment is embodied in the '3S + 1C' formula of safety, security, service and compliance . This not only comes from PAP I, but from all elements found at the airport: airport administrations, immigration, customs, quarantine, airlines, police, security, porters, cleaning service personnel and others. All must share the same vision to make the Ngurah Rai Airport 3S = 1C."

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