Sos From Bali: We Need You Back
Whilst the Australian economy has been hurt by the impact of coronavirus on inbound tourism from China, Bali’s tourism market has been impacted badly, and they need urgent help from their ‘Aussie friends’.
With arrivals from Chinese holidaymakers falling from an average of 25,000 per week to zero, the impact on Bali is starting to bite hard with hotels, taxis, bars and small shops reeling.
“In 2018 there were 1.4 million Chinese going to Bali annually”, said Ross Taylor, president of the Perth-based Indonesia Institute. “As the Bali government cracked-down on what is known as ‘zero-dollar’ tourism – structured pre-paid package holidays from China – the number dropped over 300,000 in 2019 to a level that was seen as a ‘manageable situation’. But now that number has collapsed to zero as all flights to and from China are suspended due to the coronavirus.”
Mr Taylor said the Indonesian government has assured visitors that coronavirus was not posing any risk in Bali, and arrivals from countries other than China were ‘holding well’ at present levels. This is despite more than 40,500 cases of the virus now being detected, including amongst Indonesia’s neighbours of Thailand (32 cases), Singapore (43) and Malaysia (18).
“Some experts now question whether Indonesia’s relatively poor-quality health system may be unintentionally hiding the extent of coronavirus in Indonesia, including Bali.” said Mr Taylor.
“But in the meantime when you take 25,000 Chinese mainland tourists each week off the streets, and out of cafes and shops in Bali, that is going to hurt; and it is”, he said.
One local private tour driver, Gede Sugiana, said business in Bali is now sangat buruk or very bad.
“It’s really quiet”, he said, “and I have a family to care for, but very little business.”
The executive director of the Bali Tourist Promotional Board, Ms Gilda Sagrado said that right now is a very good time for Australians to holiday in Bali.
“Apart from the economic pain that Balinese people are feeling right now, the streets are quieter, accommodation is safe and plentiful and the attractions such as theme parks and beaches are not being over-run”, she said.
"And the real bonus is the usual traffic jams around south Bali have reduced significantly”.
The Bali economy has become more-and-more reliant on tourism in recent years making the entire island more vulnerable to shocks outside of its control.
“Agriculture was once the mainstay of Bali’s economy”, said Mr Taylor. “Today almost all their economic ‘eggs' are in the tourism basket, so when something like the coronavirus hits a major supplier of tourists such as China, the impact on Bali will be severe”.
Mr Taylor said that staff who remained in employment at the major hotels were also being hurt financially.
“Most hotel and restaurant staff rely on tips to make-up around 50% of their take-home pay. Those tips are no longer being generated as there are very few tourists, and Balinese people don’t have a safety-net such as Centrelink that we have in Australia”.
Ms Sagrado says that Australians contemplating a holiday overseas could enjoy all the great things that Bali offers but in a more relaxed environment.
“We understand that your own tourism industry is being affected badly and we are concerned for you. But we also need your support now by coming to Bali for a holiday. It will really help so many of your Balinese friends. We need you to come back and see us”.