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Tourism: A Power for Good or Evil?

Bali has Failed to Manage Tourism Development for the Benefit of the Balinese

(10/11/2013) An article in the Bali Daily (The Jakarta Post) underlines that among the “lessons learned” by Bali over the past decades is that tourism development has an equal propensity for bringing both benefit or calamity to a destination.

The article “Bali’s tourism, not all dazzling stories” urges other areas of Indonesia to consider carefully in formulating their tourism plans. Quoting an economic affairs official from the Bali provincial administration, Ketut Wija said a number of negative cultural, social and environmental impacts have resulted from Bali’s rapid rate of tourism investment. “Any province must have a strong commitment to preserving its culture and nature, as well as the enactment of relevant legal requirements before planning tourism development in their area,” Wija warned.

Speaking at a training session for journalists on banking and economic issues, Wija bemoaned the fact that most tourist facilities in Bali are owned by foreigners and non-Balinese from other parts of Indonesia.

The rapid rise in accommodation development has also created more employment opportunities, but not necessarily for the Balinese who continue to suffer from a high rate of unemployment.

The real estate boom in Bali is also marginalizing the Balinese who are no longer able to purchase land on their ancestral island. Moreover, those Balinese who still own land are increasingly being compelled to sell their property due to a rapid increase in property tax rates that they can no longer afford.

He also cited how development and traditional religious practice are often finding themselves at loggerheads with each other. Long religious processions cause traffic jams on roads crowded with tourists and newcomers. At the same time, developers intent on creating “illegal” private beachfronts are thwarting access to shorelines once used for religious rituals. “For Balinese people, beaches are sacred sites for them to spiritually cleanse their body and soul. With so many new buildings, access to beaches is closed and restricted for residents,” Wija said.

He also pointed out development has cost Bali 1,000 hectares of productive farm land annually in years past, a figure now down to an average of 350 hectares per year.

And, while tourism has brought wealth and prosperity to Bali, Wija warns: “The distribution of wealth and development is far from equal. Only a few people living in tourist destinations benefit most from tourism.”

Underlining his point, Wija said unemployment in Bali stood at 2.4% and nearly 4% of the people in Bali still live below the poverty line.

He explained how Indonesia's policy on regional autonomy has largely been a disaster in Bali, with each regency making its own rules and regulations, oftentimes to suit the whims of new investors.

Finally, he warned that the mistakes made in Bali are now being repeated in other parts of Indonesia. “The case of Bali is now being replicated in some other places, such as Labuan Bajo and Komodo Island in East Nusa Tenggara. Investors have already acquired strategic land along coastal areas,” lamented Wija.