Last month in this magazine, and on our online platforms, I put forward the challenge to the relevant authorities of choosing mass tourism against high value, high quality tourism and was immediately challenged by some good thinking folks who correctly said high value tourism doesn’t always equate with a good flow of income to the local population. This, they correctly argued, came more from the simple, backpacker/surfer/’traveler” who stays in local homes and guest houses and eats in the “warungs”, giving direct income to the lower end of the hospitality spectrum. As opposed to the five star visitor whose cash goes to foreign hotel operators, big corporate car hire, international retail brands and foreign owned and run restaurants. So true. But perhaps that’s only part of the story.
What I was mostly concerned about was the strain put on resources by mass, low-value tourism in terms of ever increasing number of hotels, cars, buses, airport visitors, water usage production, the resulting air pollution and miserable traffic. As opposed to the smaller numbers of top level tourists who bring the same amount of money (at perhaps 25% of the visitors!) reducing the strain of sheer volume and improving the visitor experience on roads, temples and sidewalks! But of course the argument above still holds true: does the local population really benefit?
Then I thought “wait a second, even that is not enough”. What we need coming to Bali are people who actually care about nature, culture and heritage. It really isn’t enough to come and stay and spend money on hotels, restaurants, clubs and attractions, though that’s good, we need people who really appreciate what Bali has to offer. I am constantly surprised and disappointed by seeing visitors stay cheap, eat cheap, drink cheap and shop cheap, all in “international” brands and never experience “Bali” at all.
I think we need to ask people to “qualify” for a visitor pass to Bali! If they genuinely have no interest in Bali’s culture, heritage, landscape, temples, art, dance or nature, why did they choose Bali? They can do pool, McD, souvenier shop, bar, club, bed anywhere, they don’t need to take up valuable space here!
Controversial I know, so no doubt the comments will flow again but I’m ready! The new regulation, when you are booking your Bali holiday online or offline, should be to answer one question: do you love “Real Bali”? If you do, you are welcome. If you don’t……well learn to or go somewhere else!