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A Less than Festive Festival

Editorial: Indonesia's Tourism Minister Wants Hotels to Promote Bali Arts Festival. We Ask: Why isn't this Happening?

Bali News: Bali, Indonesia, Bali Arts Festival, Jero Wacik
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Disappointed with the low number of foreign tourists who participate in the month-long celebration of Balinese culture that is the Bali Arts Festival, the Minister of Culture and Tourism for Indonesia, Jero Wacik, has called on hotels in Bali to promote the festival to their guests.

While we couldn't agree more with Minister Wacik that the Festival, now in its 33rd year, is an event worthy of promotion to both domestic and foreign visitors to Bali, the problem of poor participation by tourists is not due to any reluctance on the part of Bali's travel agents and hotels to promote the event, but in what appears to be the blatant ineptitude of the festival's organizers.

Criticism last week from Bali's governor about the poor sound and lighting at the opening ceremony attended by the President is, we're afraid, only the tip of the iceberg. On an island with a large cadre of professional event managers who regularly stage international standard events, it is especially shameful that a festival championing Bali's rich culture is infamous for its lackluster approach to even the most basic elements of successful event management. Adding to this shame is the fact that we are almost certain that if Bali's Society of Professional Conference Managers (SIPCO)  were asked to lend their operational and marketing expertise to the Festival, they would proudly jump at the task on a pro bono basis.

We urge the Governor to look beyond simple issues of how individual events are staged at the Bali Arts Festival and examine the large issue of if the current organizing committee possesses the necessary depth of talent and expertise to execute what should be the major event on Bali's annual calendar?

Now in its 33rd year, the Bali Arts Festival is run very much the same way it was three decades ago, long before the advent of the Internet and social networking and years before Bali could boasts state-of-the-art facilities and technical know-how in the area of international events.

In many ways, the Bali Arts Festival remains frozen in time, stuck somewhere around 1978.

Underlining this failure to adapt to the times, the Festival apparently does not even posses its own website. The website is a labor of love maintained by Melina Caruso of the MMC Marketing Group who manages to piece together the information presented on that site based on the very scant information on programs and schedules provided to her by the organizers, typically given to her in the 11th hour - too late to have any real effect on attendance by foreign visitors.

Any major festival today, particularly one now entering its fourth decade, without its own website identity on the Internet, is a prima facie case for marketing ineptitude by those in charge.

Equally disappointing, the information provided by the organizers fails to provides any  kind of detailed information on performances or on the cost and method of obtaining tickets that would facilitate the kind of participation by visiting tourists desired by Minister Jero Wacik.

With a modest measure of forethought and perhaps a radical change in the command structure, there is no doubt that the Bali Art Festival could become a rousing success with foreign and domestic visitors and even help attract more "quality visitors" to the island intent on experiencing Bali's unrivalled rich culture. Advance ticket sales at international price levels could be sold on-line, producing valuable revenues for the Festival from tourists who want to know before they arrive in Bali that they have firm tickets for selected performances.

In response to Minister Wacik's call keep for more tourists at the Bali Arts Festival, he should know that the Bali tourism industry stakeholders are eager and ready to promote the Bali Arts Festival. However, the industry continues to wait patiently on the sidelines for the organizers of the event to make a journey Back to the Future and do even the most basic tasks that needed to realize the vast reservoir of untapped potential that is the Bali Arts Festival.

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