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Loving Bali Too Much

Former Tourism Minister Warns Bali’s Growing Visitor Numbers are not Sustainable

(11/30/2012) The former Indonesian Minister of Tourism, I Gede Ardika, has warned that Bali has carrying capacity limitations for tourism that cannot be ignored.

Quoted by Bali Daily (The Jakarta Post), Ardika said: 

“The island has limited natural resources, limited water resources, limited energy, which all translate into a limited carrying capacity, that’s why the island must enforce a limit on the number of tourists visiting the island.”

Ardika who now sits on the World Committee on Tourism Ethics at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) resounded a warning that has come from many quarters that Bali’s insatiable hunger for ever-increasing tourist number is not sustainable.

Bali, with approximately 60,000 hotel rooms now for sale, a number projected to increase 17% by 2014 to 70,000 rooms.

While the signs are obvious that Bali is unable to keep up with the demands on its natural resources and its infrastructure, officials continue to issue new hotel permits, choosing to sidestep calls for a moratorium on new development and restrictions imposed by the 2009 provincial zoning law (RTRWP 2009).

Warning of the dangers posed by mass tourism, Ardika, who is a native of Bali, said: “The Balinese are facing water shortages. If the island is swamped by tens of millions of visitors then what will happen to subak (traditional farming and irrigation)? The Balinese may end up buying bottled water for drinking and cooking.”

The former Minister of Tourism also renewed his warning on the rapid decrease in forested area and faming land in Bali being converted to housing and villa developments.

An official State-funded French survey carried out in the 1970s revealed that the maximum carrying capacity for tourists in Bali is 4 million visitors each year. That total was estimated to be sustainable and, more importantly, represented a total number of visitors not likely to marginalize the endemic population of the island.

Now, Bali has more than surpassed that limit with an estimated more than 8 million foreign and domestic visitors coming to Bali each year.