The recent resignation of Bali Tourism Board (BTB) chairman, Mr. I Gusti Bagus Yudhara, and the torrent of criticism leveled at the organization by Mr. Gde Wiratha in his capacity as chairman of the Bali Chapter of the Indonesian Hotel & Restaurant Association (PHRI), suggest that the time is now ripe to re-examine the role of those charged with heading the island's tourism industry.
Is BTB Necessary?
Rapid-fire criticism that the BTB is unresponsive to the needs of Bali tourism, that it's leadership fails to reflect the interest of the major stakeholders, and that the BTB sometimes involves itself in activities outside the pressing priorities of the island's battered tourism community - may have unintentionally boomeranged on those who launched these attacks hoping to undermine and eventually dismantle the tourism body.
Not only has Bali's Governor responded by insisting that BTB to continue its work, but the unusually strident debate has served to underline the leadership vacuum that exists in Bali tourism and the absolute need for a widely-based group - such as BTB, to provide direction and leadership.
Bali's tourism industry is a widely divergent group comprised of hoteliers, tour and attraction operators, restaurateurs, handicraft makers, guides and shop makers - just some of the many who derive their livings from tourism. While each of these groups are organized under their own separate and narrowly defined associations of varying efficacy, no effective umbrella organization exists that speaks to the shared needs and interest of Bali tourism as a whole.
Love it or hate it, the only organization on the horizon with the potential of providing the much needed direction for Bali tourism is the BTB.
Who's Driving the Tourism Bus?
An underlying, but not immediately obvious, theme underlying the recent flood of criticism against BTB is an innate jealousy between the various tourism organizations in Bali. Sadly, these organizations are often (but thankfully, not always) headed by individuals hell-bent on guarding their own private patch of power with little or no interest in cooperating to restore vitality to the island's tourism industry.
Petty power struggles between these sometimes pitifull "midgets of the human spirit" explain the often-time intense competition that accompanies the election of leaders for some of the professional associations that surround Bali tourism. Power and prestige are eagerly sought, while economically displaced members of the local community furtively pin their hopes for the future on people more interested in "self service" than "public service."
BTB Needs a Professional Full Time Chief Executive
With tourism providing the income for an estimated 2/3 of the island's 3 million residents, the job of heading the BTB is too important to be entrusted to a mere volunteer Chief Executive Officer forced to balance the needs of BTB with the demands of his or her private sector position. Public statements by BTB's former Chairman demonstrate that such competing demands - especially in time of crisis such as these - are beyond the reasonable capabilities of any conscientious leader.
Clearly, BTB needs a top-quality and well-compensated Chief Operating Officer independent of any other employment in the tourism sector. Such an individual could then answer to a broadly-based Board of Director drawn for all walks of the local tourism community.
Then and perhaps only then, will there be any hope of filling the severe vacuum of leadership, which so sorely threatens Bali's chances for economic recovery.
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