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Rapid Development Threatens Bali's Culture

International Press Sees Bali's Culture Threatened by Fast Growing Tourism Sector.

(7/26/2010) An article that was originally published by Le Monde and republished in [The Guardian (U.K.)] highlights, once again, the threat posed to cultural heritage by mass tourism.

Tourism remains the 3rd-largest source of foreign exchange for the Indonesian economy, with national tourism leaders ambitiously targeting 7 million visitors spending US$6.3 billion in 2010. But, despite arrival numbers that continue to grow each year, Indonesian tourism totals still lags behind Singapore (9 million) and Malaysia (17 million).

Seen within the context of all ASEAN countries, Indonesia's market share has declined steadily over the past decade, performing only better than the "sick-man" of ASEAN Myanmar.

The Guardian article describes the growing number of Asian visitors to Indonesia, including mainland Chinese, who totaled 204,000 in 2009, increasing dramatically from just 50,000 three years earlier. The growing preponderance of Asian visitors is resulting in more interest in modern comforts as opposed to the cultural attractions preferred by long-haul visitors from Europe and the Americas.

Quoting the head of the Bali Tourism Board, Ngurah Wijaya, "Bali has always been trendy, but it has had a spectacular boom in the last two years." Bali's success is extracting a high price due to its inadequate infrastructure, overcrowding, water shortages, and growing problems with pollution.

Suggesting Bali needs quality before quantity, Wijaya asked: "Are we going to become another Ibiza? We don't need millions of visitors or all these hotel rooms going up all the time. Mass tourism would kill Bali and its unique heritage."