China is set to become one of Bali’s biggest contributors to the tourism industry following a significant surge in the number of Chinese tourists who visited the resort island over the last couple of months.

In March, the number of Chinese tourists reached 21,492, a whopping 88.16 percent increase compared to the number recorded in February. The increase is expected to continue in the following months.

Head of the Bali Statistic Office Ida Komang Wisnu said the increase has placed China as one of the top three contributors of tourists to Bali, behind Japan and Australia. Japan and Australia have been the traditional market of tourists since the Bali tourism boom of the mid-80s. China represents one of the island’s new markets.

“The increase *in Chinese tourists* is influenced by the opening up of direct flights from Bali to several cities in China,” he said.

Moreover, the unstable security situation in Thailand, long known as one of Bali’s strongest competitors, has led many potential holidaymakers to opt for Bali.

Bongo Ardana of Adisa, a travel agency that caters exclusively to Chinese tourists, confirmed the number of Chinese visitors is steadily increasing.

“Actually, the increase has been recorded since early this year,” he said.

He said that the average length of stay of a Chinese visitor to Bali is four days, in which time they show strong buying power.

“Their expenditures during their stay here is quite good, I believe that China is a very good prospective market for the Bali tourism industry,” he said.

The number of visitors from Australia, Russia, Taiwan and the U.S. also increased in March, but none booked an increase as significant as the Chinese.

The total number of foreign tourists in March was 168,205, a 4.66 percent increase compared to the same period in 2008 and a 13.88 percent increase compared to February 2009.

“It is very likely that the number of foreign tourists in 2009 will be higher than the one we recorded in 2008 and apparently the ongoing global financial crisis has yet to affect the tourism industry in a significant way,” Wisnu said.