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(5/23/2009) Bali Post has carried an interview with a Norwegian property agent and developer, Terje H. Nilsen, urging Bali to protect its identity and unique attractiveness. He is particularly intent that Bali preserve it cultural vales which differentiate it from other destinations. Nilsen explained, "tourism surveys by several international institutions have the same results: the main reasons international tourist are attracted to Bali are the people of Bali and their culture."
A number of foreign travel publications have repeatedly cited Bali as the best holiday destination in the world, always citing the people and culture 'factors' as the basis for such awards. Nilsen concluded: 'So we have to hold onto this fact. Quit looking for something new when everything is already here in Bali's local values.'
Nilsen believes that one of the things most admired by foreigners visiting Bali is the island's loyalty to tradition and the rules handed down by their ancestors. One of these rules is the limitation on the height of building which must not surpass the height of a coconut tree (15 meters). Nilsen see this restriction in both a spiritual and ecological context.
The Norwegian businessman feels that when people visit Bali they are overjoyed to see that buildings do not hamper views. Adding: "You can imagine if small Bali is covered with 33 meter high hospitals, universities, schools and markets as is currently being proposed. If special exemptions are given, hotels and other sorts of building will follow."
Nilsen told the Bali Post that he hoped Bali would not destroy itself by taking steps that will weaken its unique position in the world. He urged Bali to study from a number of destinations in Southern Europe who abandoned their unique identities in search of "something new" only to find tourists and investors lost any interest in their cities.
Citing an example from his own country of Norway where a small town controls all its old buildings and tourist objects with a very firm hand. The government and tourism stakeholders know that permission to construct a new building, even for private use, is very selective. "To ask permission to replace only a window, is very difficult," said Nilsen.
He feels that the investors allowed to come to Bali have been able to do so without any selectivity. There are those who have built as their heart desires, often only thinking of return on investment and no concern with local style and nuance. This has happened because Bali's law is not firm and officials are prepared to compromise. As a result, we have building permits issued form structures standing in the green zone or near temples. "Frankly, I am very worried," said Nilsen.
Foreign investors should be more careful. Usually they will ask first what and where they can build and use eco-friendly construction methods. If they get "strange information" these people will choose not to invest. Genuine investors know there are global rules on investing. What's more, the European Union will require from 2016 that all resorts built in their territories must be environmentally friendly," he explained.
In addition to examining zoning rule, Nilsen also focused on the ownership of tourism assets in Bali, 85% of which he claims are held by people from outside Bali. He sees that as a rampant situation with the potential of sparking social conflict. He asks and then warns: "Where will the Balinese people be exiled to from the homeland? If we are not careful, this is what well happen."
Two tourists from California, John and Lynn Gordon, share the same opinion. They did not come all the way to Bali to see skyscrapers, of which there are many "back home." Tourists come to Bali to experience its religious feelings and uniqueness in the world.
John Gordon sees the suggestion to allow higher buildings as a form of greed. This is a mistake which should be corrected. John and Lynn admit that they came to Bali because of its unique culture, beautiful nature and well-preserved temples. John Gordon said: "The sacredness of your temples must be safeguarded. Many of us tourists come to Bali because of the presence of temples."
Regina, a tourist from Jakarta, also objects if Bali follows in the footsteps of Jakarta and other large cities in Indonesia allowing skyscrapers to be built. Regina, who together with her group, has come to Bali on numerous occasions, sees current development in Bali as uncontrolled. She said that Bali can develop, but that development must be guided by a good zoning law. "We're having a hard time finding Bali's identity," Regina said. "Except for the construction of temples, building and development are no longer defined. This will get worse if the suggestion to change the height of building and allows tall structures to be built is approved. In Jakarta we have tall buildings, we go to Bali and they also have tall buildings? This is getting tiresome."