DENPASAR, Bali – The number of foreign tourists visiting Bali may have increased over the past decade, but the time and money spent by each visitor is falling.
Tourism Board chairman Ida Bagus Ngurah Wijaya said stingy tourists are overcrowding Bali, and residents who rely on tourism for their livelihoods are not reaping the benefits.
“It’s ironic. We want people to come but when they come we have serious problems of traffic and waste. The island becomes dirty,” he said.
According to the Bali Statistics Agency, 2.8 million foreign tourists visited the island last year, up from 2.6 million in 2010.
However, their average length of stay has fallen from a week to three or four days, while daily spending has decreased from $300 ten years ago to $100, Ngurah said.
Bali has begun to lose its cultural charm and exclusivity due to the crowded conditions, he said, driving away “quality tourists” like those from Europe.
Observers have noted that the island is facing new challenges in the form of water shortages, crime, pollution and outbreaks of rabies and Legionnaires’ disease.
“People continue to construct hotels and buildings without Balinese character,” Ngurah said.
To slow development, Governor Made Mangku Pastika has imposed a moratorium on new hotels in parts of the south, where most of the island’s 50,000 rooms are concentrated.
The government says Bali streets could be gridlocked in five years. Vehicle sales are growing by 12.3 percent a year and road construction just 2.5 percent.
Even without tourists, Bali is overpopulated, with four million living on an island that officials say can support just 1.5 million.