Bali Listed in Overtourism Destinations, Sandiaga Offers Defense

Young woman in Taman Ujung water palace, Bali island, Indonesia (photo: envato elements)

The Global tourism sector has made a full recovery after the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this revival has brought about a new concern known as overtourism. Bali, Indonesia, is among the tourist destinations reported to be grappling with overtourism. In response to Bali’s inclusion on this list, Sandiaga Uno, the Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, has provided both defense and explanation.

Overtourism has emerged as a significant issue that has captured the attention of the government. Sandiaga acknowledges this concern but emphasizes that the number of foreign tourists (wisman) and domestic tourists (wisnus) remains in line with the government’s projections and expectations.

During the Weekly Brief with Sandi Uno in Jakarta on Wednesday (1/3/2024), Sandiaga highlighted that there hasn’t been a significant surge, as stated by Mr. Handy, the General Manager of I Gusti Ngurah Rai Bali International Airport.

While the number of tourists visiting Bali in 2023 is reported to be lower than that of 2019, the accumulation of tourists in South Bali and the lack of effective tourist management have become key factors contributing to overtourism.

Sandiaga stressed that the issue in Bali isn’t merely the number of incoming tourists but rather the management of these visitors. He questions the concentration of tourists in South Bali and encourages promotional efforts for North Bali, West Bali, and East Bali. Sandiaga also advocates for increased investment outside South Bali to ensure a more balanced distribution.

To address the challenges of overtourism, the government is considering several solutions. These include imposing a tourism tax of Rp150,000 on foreign tourists and planning the implementation of a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system as a sustainable public transportation option for the Island of Bali.

Sandiaga emphasizes that the overtourism issue is being actively monitored by the government, considering that the current tourist numbers are still below approximately 30% compared to 2019.

Meanwhile, Tjok Bagus Pemayun, the Head of the Bali Provincial Tourism Office, revealed that by the end of 2023, the number of foreign tourists visiting Bali was 5,328,238, while the number of domestic tourist visits reached 9,877,911. Both figures surpassed expectations.

Tjok Bagus acknowledged the traffic challenges faced and sees it as a learning experience to prevent similar issues in the future. He attributed the traffic congestion to the increased number of vehicles and limited parking capacity in souvenir centers.

The term overtourism gained prominence as the global tourism sector recovered. The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) predicts a significant economic boost, estimating tourism to generate around US$9.5 trillion or approximately Rp147.181 trillion (based on an exchange rate of Rp15,503/US$).

WTTC’s data shows a 95% increase from the pre-pandemic period, providing a substantial economic boost and inadvertently leading to the phenomenon of overtourism. Notably, five cities worldwide, including Bali in Indonesia, have been identified as destinations that experienced an overcrowding of tourists throughout 2023. These cities include Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Phuket in Thailand, Barcelona in Spain, and Venice in Italy.