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The Chinese Market: A Double Edged Sword?

Two Strongly Differing Views on What the Promised Influx of Chinese Tourists Means for Bali.

(1/5/2002) Local officials are confident that recent changes in bi-lateral tourism policies between Indonesia and China will result in a sudden and dramatic upsurge in Chinese visitors to Bali. Some 315,949 Chinese visitors came to Bali in the first 10 months of 2001. This number is expected to grow rapidly with 180,000 Chinese projected to visit Bali in the first quarter of 2002 alone.

Will the sudden influx of Chinese tourists visiting Bali see the island through the current downturn in business following the events of September 11? Apparently, the vote is not unanimous on the subject with two leading figures in Bali tourism taking opposite positions on the subject.

Mr. Gde Wiratha, Chairman of the Bali Chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI),in recent local press reports stated his belief that the projected flood of Chinese tourists would produce the dual benefit of maintaining tourism flows to Bali and demonstrating to the world that Bali remains a world-class tourism destination.

A less optimistic view was expressed by Mr. Al Purwa, the successful owner of KCB Tours - a local tour company and a member of the Board for the Bali chapter of the Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel Agents (ASITA). Mr. Purwa stated that Bali can hope for little from the Chinese market. Explaining his view, he described how the market is strongly controlled by Chinese government and, as a group, not responsive to cultural tourism, seemingly more intent on massage and shopping. He stated, "I am personally not convinced that Bali can completely manage the Chinese inbound tourist market. The problem is the contradiction between the general profile of the Chinese tourist and Bali's positioning as a cultural tourism destination."

The Indonesian government has projected an approximate 7% increase in arrivals for 2002, with a total 5.8 million foreign visitors targeted. Of this total, approximately 50% are expected to land in Bali.