Like many tourist hotspots, Bali was overly reliant on tourism dollars and so when world borders shut due to COVID19, its people suffered greatly.
According to this article by abc’s Foreign Correspondent, many workers in the tourism industry (and affiliated industries like restaurants, massage and retail) fled back to local villages to return to farming, however there is hope that tourism will return and the shutdown it’s given the island a chance to rethink how Bali does tourism in the future – something many other destinations can learn from.
Watch the video, ‘Tomorrow Will Be Better‘ about Bali’s recovery and readiness for tourism to return.
Similar to my podcast episode about ‘Are Tourists Killing Tourism‘ – the shutdown of global tourism is the perfect opportunity for Bali to look at how tourism could be enhanced, benefitting locals without destroying the environment and ensuring a sustainable future.
One statistic mentioned in the Foreign Correspondent video was over 70% of tourism income in Bali was then sent offshore to foreign owners.
With capitalism, this statistic isn’t going to change overnight, however laws could be introduced to ensure locals are employed first to help keep money onshore. It would be a bold move to suggest hotel and activity conglomerates should pay to train locals and reinvest profits into local people but when international companies are happy to take profits out of a tourism hotspot, they should also be responsible to maintain it’s sustainability to ensure locals benefit.
Local ownership is the only way the locals will truly benefit but when big money (investment) flows more easily from overseas, that’s a difficult law to enact. However one option could be to charge visitors a fee that will directly benefit the local tourism industry with industry training including management.
However, when the mayor states the biggest problem (SIC) Bali faces is traffic, pollution & waste, lack of fresh water, energy production and an over reliance on tourism, then it’s clear that the problem isn’t just the tourists but the management of the island itself.
As tourism spreads to other islands like Lambongan and Lombok, and tourists seek ‘what Bali used to be’, then the question that should be asked is, how can we ensure these other islands don’t face the same problems (traffic, pollution etc) that Bali has?
Plastic is a major pollution issue in Bali and the shutdown has given unemployed locals a chance to clean up their island, however to ensure it does not return, a plan needs to be in place to recycle, and to stop rubbish before it begins with banning plastic bags and taxing products that aren’t in recycled packaging, thereby giving producers an incentive to reduce plastic use before it becomes waste.
If the Return and Earn system has been successful in NSW, there’s no reason why it can’t be work in Bali. Thereby giving locals an incentive to correctly sort out glass and plastic, and giving recyclers an easier way to ensure bottles get recycled.
Bali may be small, but it features an active volcano so could utilise geothermal power, it’s sunny year round so could make use of solar and it also has an overabundance of plastic which could be recycled into souvenir t-shirts or sarongs – both required purchases by any tourist visiting.
I also read about a pavement made of recycled plastic that is acts as solar panels. A win-win situation.
As for traffic, that’s a problem in many places, unless investment in green public transport occurs, or dis-incentives to drive are created then it will continue as more tourists arrive seeking cheap massages, tasty food and affordable resorts.
Lastly, it’s up to us tourists to treat our holiday destinations with respect.
Bali may be cheap, close and beautiful but it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure it stays beautiful, not just the locals.
What’s your suggestion to ensure tourism is sustainable in the future? Comment below!
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