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Wanting a destination to be what it is not

Editorial: Tourism is an important source of income for many countries, particularly developing ones, but it can be detrimental if not well planned. That’s what has happened in South Bali where a recent government study said there are too many hotels (referred to as too many rooms), the traffic is overwhelming, fresh water is increasingly scarce, and there’s a shortage of electrical power. It can be tough to take a taxi through South Bali because it is so congested; I twice had to abandon mine and walk back to my hotel because traffic wasn’t moving. However, the government doesn’t seem to care for they moved ahead with another mega project, a convention centre for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2013.

I first visited the island more than three decades ago when there were about 30,000 foreign tourists. At that time Bali was largely agricultural, Kuta was a small village and there were just a few makeshift restaurants, a couple of hotels, and some shacks on the beach where many of us stayed. Within a decade the number of tourists had swollen to 700,000 and the big, multi-national hotels were moving in. Today 80% of Bali’s economy is dependent on tourism. Even though the terrorist bombings in 2002 and 2005 hurt the industry, there are now 2.5 million foreign visitors and on top of that you add the domestic ones.

International tourism agencies talk-the-talk about sustainable development but perhaps greed and expediency rule. I doubt the average Indonesian is getting much out of this, other than long commutes for most can’t afford to live in South Bali.

But hey, what to me is unbridled development to others is a paradise and Bali continues to receive top awards as a great destination.

Sylvia Fanjoy

Sylvia@ridingthebuses.com

© Riding the buses 2012

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