When Will Chinese Tourists Return to Bali?

Bali’s Deputy Governor, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati (Cok Ace), speaking during a Webinar sponsored by the Bali Tourism Board, said the current pandemic crisis afflicting Bali should be a time of self-assessment and reflection where the Island’s tourism industry can finally put quality before quantity. 

As reported by BeritaDewata, the Webinar focused on the Chinese market and was titled “Bali next Normal – Will Chinese Travel to Bali Again?” Cok Ace reflected long and wide on the nature of the Chinese Travel Market and Bali’s past record of handling Chinese travelers. 

In the Deputy-Governor’s view, Chinese tourists are known for their mass tourism to Bali. “What we need to think about,” said Cok Ace, “is the need to make the Chinese visitors feel comfortable. At the same time, we also need to protect Bali’s natural environment and prevent its ecology from falling victim to tourism.”

Also participating in the Webinar was the Head of the Bali branch of Bank Indonesia, Trisno Nugroho; a representative for the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing, Dino R. Kusnadi; the Consul-General in Bali for the PRC, Gou Haodong; and the Director of Marketing for the PRC, Japan, South Korea, and India for the Ministry of Tourism and the Creative Economy, Sigit Witjaksono.

Since Chinese tourists have dominated Bali foreign tourist arrivals, Cok Ace insisted that Bali needs to prepare a tourism product to meet the demands of Chinese travelers without sacrificing Bali’s environment or culture.

What we need to think about is the need to make the Chinese visitors feel comfortable. At the same time, we also need to protect Bali’s natural environment and prevent its ecology from falling victim to tourism.”

Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, Deputy-Governor of Bali

The Deputy-Governor of Bali told listeners that Bali must provide better service to the Chinese market than it has in the past. “We need to create a quality tourism product for them and use the time given to us by the pandemic to repair and enhance Bali tourism.”

Continuing, Cok Ace warned the Bali tourism industry not to become overly enthusiastic with optimism. He cautioned that tourism industry workers must prepare for every possible eventuality, saying the lesson taught by COVID-19 is that we must go back to our root values and be prepared for introspection and self-sacrifice.

Lobbying for a continuing commitment to enhance the quality of Bali tourism, Cok Ace reminded his listeners that when the Japanese first came to Bali in 1980, they only visited the Island’s beaches, but through continued marketing, the Japanese market eventually shifted its focus to Balinese culture, traditions and natural beauty.

The Deputy-Governor said he hoped the same shift could be duplicated towards the Chinese market to encourage them to explore all that Bali has to offer. “Tourists from Chine are numerous; many need quality tourism such as that offered to them by neighboring nations. Let’s shift to that direction,” he said. 

Speaking prior to the Deputy-Governor, Trisno Nugroho of Bank Indonesia told the Webinar that Bali’s economy suffered greatly in Q1 2020 with a growth rate of only 1.4% – a figure far below the national average of 2.97%. Economists are predicting a negative national growth rate for Q2 of between -0.4% to -1.0%.

Continuing, Nugroho said: “We are concerned that Bali’s economy will worsen, following the downturn in the national economy.” He lamented that poverty is on the increase in Bali, resulting in growing unemployment due to the sudden standstill in the tourism industry.

For these reasons, Trisno Nugroho hopes Chinese tourists will return to Bali and stimulate the Island’s economy once the world opens again for tourism in September 2020. The Bank Indonesia official said there are signs of positive economic growth from China in the past few months to such an extent that some predict that the PRC will be the center of global economic growth in the post-pandemic era.

Nugroho cited surveys from China suggesting the Chinese are eager to travel again with 60% of the Chinese people saying they will take a tourism trip in 2020. What’s more, 58% of those prepared to travel want to go to a tropical location, such as Bali. He said he hoped Bali would seize the opportunity presented by the Chinese market by enhancing its infrastructure and overall quality. The Banker remains optimistic that Bali’s economy can rapidly recover from its current negative territory.

A travel operator from China questioned if Bali would be able to reopen without flights being recommenced between Bali and China in September 2020, and given the currently high rate of new COVID-19 cases in Bali that are exceeding national averages of new infections. Cok Ace said a chance remains that the flights will resume, given Bali and China’s close and long-standing relationship. “If the administration is done and the Central Government grants permission, then such a development (i.e., flights) is not impossible.”