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An Island on Auto-Pilot

Academic and Tourism Leader Warn Bali is Doomed without a Clear and Well-Enforced Master Plan for Tourism

(8/24/2012) The rector of the Tourism Faculty at Udayana University, Dr. I Putu Anom, warned on Friday August 24, 2012, that if Bali continues on its current path of developing its tourism product without the aid of a Master Plan the island is fated to  become a cheap destination.

As reported by Bali Post, Anom warned: “This is no master plan for the development of tourism. If zoning is not established, the development of tourism will take place in a helter-skelter fashion.”

He bemoaned that the government is largely helpless to have any impact on the laissez-faire fashion of current development. Moreover, existing prohibition such as “no build green zones” and setback distances from rivers and seashores are ignored by government officials at the behest of investors.

In some instances described by Anom, investors are allowed to build projects with no permits or licenses at all. This results in an invisible tourism economy where it eventually becomes impossible to accurately count the number of hotel, villas and rooms available on the island.

He regretted that the present development of tourism in Bali is only concerned with pursuing quantity of visitors by building as many cheap accommodation venues as possible, with no reference to the resulting impact on the quality of the natural environment or towards an organized building plan for the island.

He went on to describe how Bali is reaping the results of no development planning with traffic jams and a degraded natural environment. The tourism academic fears that, left unaddressed, this situation will eventually destroy Bali’s appeal as a world holiday destination.

Calling for a clear concept on tourism development with a well thought out master plan, Anom said any development must reflect the carrying capacity of each region and seek to protect its natural environment.

‘What most important,” he warned, “is a commitment by the government and officials to enforce and execute the rules that exists.”

The same warning was sounded by another tourism practitioner, Ketut Ardana. He said the current concept for tourism development in Bali is unclear. He feels that the island is pursuing mass tourism, building new accommodation at breakneck speed with no reference to carrying capacity.

Said Ardana: “Don’t let Bali seek 7 million tourists if the carrying capacity is only 4 million! There must be a resolve to sell destinations beyond Bali such as East and West Nusa Tenggara.”

He outlined the problem of oversupply now taking place in Bali where hotel prices are being heavily discounted, creating, in the end, an image of the island as a cheap destination.

Both men said Bali must create a sustainable tourism product that does not sacrifice the natural environment or the destination’s natural appeal. They also called for accurate statistics on tourism, removing the inconsistent and uneven numerical reports currently produced by the government.

First and foremost, they warned, Bali tourism must be managed under one-island management system.