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Bali Tourism Friends Sound a Dire Warning

Group of Tourism Leaders Warn the Island Will Lose its Charm for Foreign Visitors if Urgent Action is not Taken Soon.

(2/28/2009) Kompas sounded a dire warning of impending disaster for Bali's tourism fortunes in its coverage of a seminar hosted by Bali Tourism Friends (BTF) in Kuta on Friday, January 30, 2009.

BTF, a group composed of leaders from Bali's tourism community, warn that unless urgent action is taken the island's tourism visitors will soon start spending their holidays elsewhere. Helping to deliver this message and invited as speakers at the forum were former Minister of the Economy, Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti, the former head of the National Constitutional Court Dewa Gede Palguna and the Dean of the Literature Faculty of Bali's Udayana University I Wayan Ardika.

Dorodjatun told the gathering that the contribution of tourism to the national economy has stood at a stagnant 30-35% during the period 2004-2007. Although this stagnation is due to some extent to external factors, such as terrorism and economic disruption, the much respected economist sees this situation as a sign of Bali's growing lack of competitiveness due to the declining state of the island's tourism product.

Dorodjatun explained: "If we take a closer look we will see that tourism has grown globally around the equator while Bali has had a tendency to stagnate. This has happened when, in fact, Bali's represents Indonesia's face to the world." The respected economist went on to name competing destinations that are increasing in popularity, such as Pattaya, Acapulco and several destinations in the Caribbean.

Citing symptoms of Bali's declining appeal as a tourist destination, Dorodjatun said: "Along the streets of Denpasar and other areas in Bali are buildings with non-Balinese architecture contributing to a declining desire among foreign tourists to visit Bali. Money changers and tax drivers are continually trying to defraud their customers." He said that all of Bali's leaders have no choice but to take quick steps to remedy this situation.

The speaker's message is in keeping with a growing call from many quarters for the management of Bali tourism to be brought under a single roof involving all the stakeholders from business, government, academic circles and the general public. The BTF has been suggested in some circles as the proper organization to establish such a management structure.

One of the founders of the BTF, Hadi Taryoto, said that the branding and management of Bali tourism is not effective because it must accommodate the individual visions of at least 10 tourism management groupings drawn from the province, regencies, the city of Denpasar and a number of vertical organizations.

According to Kompas, the seminar organized by BTF raised five major areas of strong concern:

The contribution of tourism to the gross regional product for Bali has run a stagnant 30-35% for the period 2004-2007.

Along the main roads of Denpasar there are a growing number of buildings with no elements of Bali architecture.

Money changers and tax drivers in Bali are consistently trying to defraud their customers.

The current management of Bali as a tourism destination is not effective.

The concept of creating destination management for Bali under a single roof is growing in popularity.