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The Robber Barons of Bali

Community Leaders and Tourism Authorities Question the Motives of Modern Tourism Practitioners in Bali.

(10/14/2006) A tourism dialogue conducted among leading authorities on Bali's tourism at the Udayana University on Tuesday, October 10, 2006, suggested that the island has no shortage of "robber barons" focused only on personal profit with little regard for the sustainability of local tourism.

Anthropologist I Wayan Geria suggested that Bali had entered into its present downturn and devastated state over the past twenty years, and is now badly in need of "recovery" efforts. In the current period, complained Geria, many tourism players are only interested in what they can "rob" and "steal" from Bali.

According to Geria, there are two distinct groups now operating in Bali tourism. The first group is comprised of those who make a meaningful contribution to Bali, while members of the second group are only concerned with how they can wrest from the island. Geria added: "The group who make significant contributions to Bali is relatively small while the majority (of tourism practitioners) only think what they can 'rob' from the island."

He explained that while the concept of "cultural tourism" was set out and elaborated in the local tourism laws promulgated in 1974, the principle, however, remains largely unachieved in practice.

A Crisis of Ethics and Morality Driven by Money

Geria pointed to a crisis in ethics in Bali tourism, claiming the crisis has its roots in tourism being rendered into little more than a commercialized commodity, as demonstrated in the increase in property sales; and the exploitation of water, land, forest and mountain resources.

At the same time there has developed an easy readiness to tolerate any changes demanded by tourism. This has resulted in an erosion of community ethics as regards environmental standards, economic standards and standards of human morality.

Another tourism and community leader, Professor Dr. Adnyana Manuaba, traced Bali's current problems back to 1986 and the increasing competition for natural resources, pressures on the environment, and the displacement of culture. The noted academic said there was a need for a common perception between the various elements of the tourism sector that provides for the interests of the agricultural and small industry sectors.