Our recent editorial [How Not to Promote Tourism] calling West Australian tourism official Simon Ambrose to task for criticizing Bali brought a record number of comments from readers both in Indonesia and Australia.
But, first of all, let's let Simon Ambrose respond. Without offering an apology, he now suggests that The Australian and Perth Now - two leading Australian publications misrepresented his comments. Judge for yourself, but Ambrose's carefully crafted response seems to say he did mention Bali in his press release a fact "the reporters picked up and run with."
Here's what Simon Ambrose had to say:
"Thank you for getting in touch and allowing us to return comment following the article that appeared this weekend regarding Bali tourism."
"The initial press release which was distributed focused on the strength of the region's visitation over the last year, despite growing competitiveness of other short-haul destinations (which have experience recent visitation growth due to low-cost carriers and the strong Australian dollar). The press release was designed to counter recent articles stating that local tourism had been affected by the popularity of low-cost overseas holidays. We were excited to see that despite what these articles reported, we have actually experienced growth in visitation."
As part of this, comments were included that Margaret River can be an affordable option for families looking for a holiday, as it has been perceived in the past that Margaret River is an expensive destination in comparison to destinations such as Bali. The press release was aimed at highlighting Margaret River's attractiveness as a bio diverse location with pristine beaches and amazing natural landscapes within Australia, rather than having to travel internationally."
In addition, although the initial press release did mention cleanliness as being a factor in attracting visitors to the region, it did not state specifically that Bali was dirty, more so that the local region was renowned for its pristine natural environment. In regards to safety, the comments were made in regards to international travel in general and the fact that Australia, and the South West are perceived as comparatively safe locations to visit. These two negative elements seem to be angles that the reporter has picked up on and run with, which, as mentioned, was not the original intention of the story."
"We acknowledge that Bali is a popular destination with many Australians and as you mention opens up many avenues for tourism throughout Indonesia which benefits both the Indonesian economy and strengthens ties with Australia. We do hope that these ties continue and that visitors continue to flock to both Margaret River and Bali as popular but diverse visitor experiences in their own right.".
One reader, David, thought we were too hard on Simon:
Seems kind of silly that there cannot be negative reviews of this so called "Paradise" without some one's sensitive feelings getting hurt ... and them wanting revenge enough to hope a guy losses his job ??...Karma always prevails!"
"In the real world positive and negative reviews are a normal part of doing business. After all it is only one man's opinion. There can't always be raving reviews, as the infrastructure here really don't match the propaganda drive . .and honestly, after living here 12 yrs. and visiting for many years before moving here ... in some ways he is correct. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the island's quality of life for local and foreigners alike, has gone downhill at an alarming rate of speed over the last 5 yrs
unless you happen to be at the top of the pecking order ... then big $$$$ rule!"
Richard May, an Australian with north Bali connections wrote:
The poor old, ignorant West Australians ! They make me feel ashamed to be an Australian, however I doubt writing about them will help...their parochial, isolationist attitudes leads one to despair...they should have seceded to a separate country decades ago, regardless of the area's resources...and what are they doing? Selling them off & leaving a gaping hole in the ground - no infrastructural developments in sight...ho hum..."
Internationally acclaimed Bali-based author Jamie James wrote in:
'What a silly little man! Great editorial, Jack -- you nailed it."
Wendy wrote in to distance herself from her fellow West Australian Simon Ambrose:
"As a West Australian, I can assure you and your readers that the comments of Mr. Ambrose are not shared by the majority of W A residents. I was embarrassed to say the least to read his childish remarks. They are damaging to W.A. and to Bali. There is no comparison. Bali is an Island, with culture, a unique lifestyle, centuries of colorful history and people with a deep sense of faith."
"Margaret River, 4 hours drive south of Perth, is famous for its surfing and coastline. More recently for its wineries and it is a very expensive place to holiday! 40 Years ago we could afford to visit the region for the surf and the fishing, now there is no way we would consider a holiday there."
"Commercialized, over priced and an inflated opinion of its worth."
"Mr. Ambrose should be severely taken to task and apologize without reservation!"
"I have to agree fully with all that has been said, I live in W.A. close to Margret River, where do I go for Holidays every year?"
"I go the Island of the Gods - Bali."
"I love your country and your people .I am always welcomed with respect something Mr. Ambrose seems very lacking in."
"I am aware or the dangers of travel to other countries even my own and still chose Bali every time."
"I will be writing to Mr. Ambrose to express my disgust at his views and about voicing them in a public way."
Jezza accused Ambrose of perhaps further trickery:
"Careful Jack, this guy might just be tricking you into giving him a holiday in paradise. My 25th trip coming up February to March for a month and let me say this I have been to Margaret river 3 times. Just tells you something, doesn't it? Bali -love you see you next month!"
Hugh Morgan from the United Kingdom, however, thinks Bali warrants some criticism and vented the following:
"I would agree that SOME things are overpriced in/to Bali. Flights from UK are expensive and decent hotels are also expensive when compared to their overheads. Staffs are paid a pittance and foodstuffs are bought at the markets at incredibly low prices but the hotels charge similar rates to western hotels that have much higher overheads. Health hazards have to be accepted, as they are what they are in different parts of the world. However, the greatest threat to health in Bali is probably crossing the road. This is something Bali officials should address as a matter of some urgency. What is the point of trying to persuade tourists to sample what is on the other side of the road when car and motorbike drivers try their hardest to run them over if they dare to try and cross the road. Act now and make it a safer place for tourists. Incidentally, I love Bali and its people but what happens to them when they get into car?"
Charlotte from Indonesia said:
"BRAVO Bali Discovery - Anyway, let's hope the symbol of 'an eye for an eye' will not match here and he was just on the wrong track - the rest of Australians may have a different view of Bali."
Daryl Robinson chimed in:
"Best yet, great to read and how true to the point. Give me Bali anytime."
Murray Leggatt was moved to say:
"Congratulations on a balanced and well written story. It's a shame I can't say the same thing for the ramblings of Mr. Ambrose. I read his story last week and felt the same way you did: a very cheap shot at Bali for his own misguided gains. I am 5 weeks away from my 32nd trip to Bali and as nice as Margaret River is, I will always holiday in Bali, It has so much more to offer. I can stay a week at a 3-star resort for the same price as one night at Margaret Rivers overpriced cabins and I get a free buffet breakfast. Bali has endless tourist attractions to go and see and enjoy. Margaret River has a beach, but give me Bali any day.. . .Mr. Ambrose trash talk and I'm with you; he should be replaced. I hope you get lots of emails on this story and Mr. Ambrose gets to read them."
Also from Australia, Jane Papalia wrote:
"Please take note that most of us here in W.A. are not interested in what Simon Ambrose has to say about Bali. My husband and I and many of our friends are regular visitors to Bali and always will be. The Southwest of W.A. is grossly overpriced and out of the reach for a holiday for ordinary people like us, and this is why we flock to Bali. I personally have been going to Bali for many years with my family and friends and now, in my senior years, I can afford to go twice a year. Bali we love you all, your gentle people, culture, wonderful sights and of course the great hotels giving us first class treatment. We will be over again in April and August this year 2011."
Terry Roberts in Australia said:"I for one would suggest as a West Australian that if I had to choose between Margaret River and Bali I would choose Bali every time. The people are so very friendly, and there is no comparison when it comers to the excellent service."
D. Levis from Australia also took Ambrose to task:
"This guy slags off Bali, with the intention of promoting tourism in West Australia at the expense of Balinese tourism. Bali tourism want him to apologize (fair enough), but if he looses his job they will give him a free holiday to Bali ...they must be crazy. Why are they prepared to waste money on this loser, they should give the money to a Balinese charity instead."
Yet another Australian reader, Gary Hilt, wrote:
"Jack, a brilliantly written response to an absolutely poorly produced article."
"I was horrified to read this original article on Sunday, quite dumbfounded. The response you have produced says all that we are thinking and I have forwarded this to many of our industry colleagues and supporters for their own evaluation and action."
"The Sunday Times has something to answer to also for including a photo of armed security guards on a beach, possibly insinuating that terrorists must be lurking close by in line with the content of the story."
"Cheap, poorly constructed, misguided attempt at resurrecting Australian Tourism.'
"Thank you, well done."
Kate more writing from Australia said the following:
"I've just returned yesterday from a wonderful 12 days on Bali. Wow, this guy Simon Ambrose stinks. We had booked Margaret River, but deemed it too expensive. Actually, can't compare the two holidays, both very diverse in their cultures. Can't believe in your gesture of goodwill you would give this guy a complimentary holiday"
Sue Robson wrote:
Mr. Ambrose knows not what he is speaking about! I personally lost many friends during the , but that never tainted my view of this charming and welcoming island. I travel at least twice, if not 3 times, a year to Bali and stay at Tuban. I also recommend the paradise to many of my patrons at work and not one person I have sent there has had ANY such complaints. Mr. Ambrose, take off that suit & tie, put on a pair of Bali board shorts, grab a Bintang and a deckchair, and chill out. Maybe you should do a report on this friendly, clean & healthy island when you know what you are talking about (or not comment at all). Bali is like a 2nd home to husband, family & myself. I resent your comments vehemently."
Damien Clifford applauded via his email:
"Bali is a wonderful place and its people are amongst the most friendly and helpful I've met anywhere."
"It's interesting that "Western" nations are so ready to issue travel warnings and health alerts for travel to Asian countries."
"I can't recall such generalized alerts for travel to Britain at the height of the IRA bombings or Mad Cow Disease! Nor, in relation to more recent terrorist attacks there for that matter."
Lewis Clarke from Australia wrote in:
Well said. I visited Bali three times last year am going again in two weeks and am celebrating my 70th birthday with 20 friends in Bali in August. I have never been sick, not even the fabled Bali Belly. My daughter Lisa Clarke has been to Bali 49 times & has never had a problem. When discussing the dangers of Margaret River you forgot all our poisonous snakes & spiders & the white pointers in the ocean. Seriously, no matter where you travel in the world there are always dangers you just have to be sensible and don't take risks."
Terri, also from Australia, wrote:
"After reading the article about what Simon wrote, I decided to write what my opinion is. I travel to Bali every year for my holidays. I love the place the people culture food and everything about it
Bali, to me, is my second home as I have wonderful Balinese friends plus I sponsor a child in Singaraja, enabling him to attend school. For me to travel to Bali is much cheaper then travel within Australia. As for Margaret River - what is there besides the vineyards? In Bali I eat where the locals eat and I have never been sick, so to me it is the best holiday destination, been there about 17 times now and will be there on 27th Feb and I'm so looking forward to return there."
Finally, Kelvin Warburton from Australia wrote:
"I can't agree with you more strongly. This man is a buffoon. As a W.A. person I am highly embarrassed for this Ambrose character and assure the Balinese people that his ramblings are not representative of the majority of the Australian people's views of Bali and its people."
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