According to respected Indonesian elder statesman, Prof. Dr. Emil Salim, although Bali has managed to become the icon of Indonesian tourism, it is destined to lose its true bearings as a religious, cultural, and nature destination, which will result in a decline in the quality of international tourists drawn to the island.
Quoted in BisnisBali and speaking at a workshop on tourism held in Bali on Friday, December 4, 2009, Prof. Dr. Salim warned: “If seen solely from the quantity of tourists coming to Bali in the last few years, there has certainly been an increase, but the income derived from each tourist as measured in money spent, and length of stay is still far below the corresponding numbers from Malaysia. This is because Bali has lost its character and bearings, otherwise often referred to as ‘branding.'”
Professor Dr. Salim is a US-trained economist who held four separate cabinet portfolios between 1971 and 1993. An advisor to President Yudhoyono, Professor Dr. Salim also advises the World Bank where he is listed as an “Eminent Person.”
In reviewing the current state of Bali tourism, Dr. Salim referred to a popular dish of mixed blanched vegetables served with a peanut sauce, saying: “Tourism, as it is currently developing in Bali, has become ‘gado-gado tourism’ that calls on a wide assortment of tourist attractions. This is very different from Malaysia with promotes ‘Truly Asia,’ India with its ‘Incredible India,’ and Singapore with its ‘Uniquely Singapore.’ This is the reason Indonesian tourism is being left behind.”
Dr. Salim said he hoped Bali’s tourism would focus on quality, spending, and length of stay rather than merely pursuing quantity. He cautioned: “We do not need to pursue tourists on the basis of quantity. Because, quantity without quality will (also) result in a loss of concern for the environment. Make religion, culture, and nature as the identity or character of Bali tourism. Bali will obtain quality tourists through staying faithful to the concept of ‘Tri Hita Karana.'”
Tri Hita Kirana is the central theme of Balinese life, which dictates balance be maintained between God, nature, and mankind.
Also attending the same conference was Indonesia’s former Minister of Culture and Tourism, I Gede Ardika, who echoed Dr. Salim’s calls for adherence to the Balinese creed of Tri Kita Karana and the need to make religion, culture, and nature as the benchmarks in developing the island’s tourism.
Said Ardhika: “The main asset of Bali tourism is the culture of Bali itself. Because of this, let us all work together to protect and preserve that which draws tourists to Bali.”