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Watching Bali's Number

Local Tourism Observer Calls on Bali Tourism Board to Collect, Analyze and Carefully Reflect on Tourism Data.

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In an op-ed piece published in the Bali Post, a tourism commentator, who writes under the name "Gregorius," has called on Bali to pay more attention to the collection and analysis of tourism data. What follows is a free translation of Gregorius' comments from the Saturday, January 26, 2008 edition of the Bali Post :

* * * *

Relying on a number of sources, the Bali Post has accumulated interesting information on tourism. For example, of the tens of countries surveyed, tourist from Brazil, France, Australia and he U.K. occupy the top position in terms of length of stay in Bali; representing respectively, 17.3 days, 15 days, 14.9 days and 14.8 days. The length of stay for Canada, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are in excess of 13 days. Meanwhile the length of stay for the nationals of other countries is generally less than 12 days. The shortest visits to Bali are by the Filipinos who stay for only 5 days.

In terms of average spend per tourist per day, tourists from Brunei, Portugal, Japan, Taiwan and China hold the highest rankings, spending more than Rp. 1 million (US$107.50) per day. These nationals are followed by tourist visitors from Mexico, Austria, the Philippines, Spain and Norway who spend an average Rp. 700,000 each day (US$75.25). Most other visitors to Bali spend less, with Finish tourist said to spend only Rp. 71,964 (US$7.40) each day. For comparison purposes, domestic visitors from West Java are estimated to spend Rp. 329,545 (US$35.40) per day, while "locals" from Kalimantan spend only Rp. 192,269 (US$20.68).

While the data above is subject to further review and debate, it does offer valuable benchmarks for those in Bali's government, tourism industry and academics. Knowing the plus and minuses of each market is the first step for retaining, developing and expanding new markets. Such a data base plays an important role in every walk of life, including tourism. In fact, a number of major companies are able to maintain their existence amidst fluctuations in the global economy because of their reliance on excellent data. Marketing experts know that the secret of successful business leaders is the completeness of their statistical data base.

A number of leading hotels and travel agents in Bali understand this fact. However, because such information is often viewed as a "company secret," it is seldom shared with the general public. As a result, it is not surprising if these companies display a disinclination to discuss "numbers," including their annual profit figures.

Despite this desire keep their cards close to their chest, it is certain that one of the keys to these companies' business success is tied to the use of a complete statistical data base. How would a hotel create its promotional plan for the coming year without such information? Which country, what market segment and what sort of packet to sell - are all questions answered through the analysis of statistical data.

On a number of past occasions it has been proposed that Bali needs a complete data base. In this paper (Bali Post) a writer has proposed that the Bali Tourism Board (BTB) could play this role. If such an effort could involve campus researchers, the available data could be made to "talk" for the benefit of all. Data must be processed to permit conclusions to be drawn that will prove useful to all concerned.

The BTB once undertook a survey on the effect of the visa-on-arrival policy, but that is not enough. In the future, the desire to manage Bali's data will pave the way for the establishment of a "Bali think tank."

Including members of the tourism industry in such an effort, BTB should seek to play the role of becoming such Bali's tourism "think tank."

Any eventual "tourism think tank" should have a separate division for the collection and processing of data from a variety of sources. Once again, this should certainly include researchers from the academic community.

The availability of a statistical data base is increasingly important as Bali embarks on yet another "boom" period. Such data will tell us where we're going, what has been achieved, what have been our failures and what must be done in the future. In brief, the available statistical data can help reflect the road ahead.

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