Govt Moves to Boost Tourism

By William J. Furney
Managing Editor

SEMINYAK ~ The local government pledged this week to increase efforts to protect bolster tourism by putting into place policies that will help attract and keep tourists coming back.

“We want all our visitors to feel safe and have a happy experience while they are in Bali – so that they will go home and tell their friends about Bali and they too will visit,” Badung Deputy Regent I Ketut Sudikerta told The Bali Times in an interview this week.

“We are committed to making changes that will support our drive to make Bali the world’s top tourist destination by 2011,” he said.

Bali number one destination

Recently representatives of the Bali government visited Australia to open a dialogue with the Australian government and address concerns Canberra has about its citizens visiting Bali.

This past week, journalists from the Asia-Pacific region came to Bali to report on the island’s comeback and the government’s commitment to better protect foreigners concerning incidents like petty shakedowns by rogue police officers.

The government of Badung – the regency where most of the tourism sector is located – is aware that Bali’s image has been tainted in recent years by a number of incidents, according to Sudikerta.

“We are listening to people’s concerns and putting into place policies that are necessary to better safeguard our visitors and give tourists the confidence to return to Bali and keep them coming back,” he said.

“We all realize the importance of tourism to Bali and want to create an environment that will foster growth in this sector,” he said.

The moves are part of a program drawn up by the authorities to turn Bali into one of the world’s top tourist destinations by 2011 – called Bali #1 Destination 2011 – that will see a multimillion-dollar expansion of Ngurah Rai International Airport in which it will triple in size to handle anticipated higher passenger numbers as well as measures to clean up the environment by dealing with sewage problems ( and cracking down on hundreds of owners of villas who are unlicensed to operate them.

The government, said Sudikerta, was working to ensure that Bali would have world-class facilities that would attract higher numbers of sophisticated travelers who will contribute more to the local economy.

To do that, the authorities required additional funding in the form of taxes from business and therefore was clamping down on over 650 illegally run villa operations in the regency, he said.

Under an amnesty program now underway, such owners were being allowed a chance to legally register or be shut down.

“We’re doing it in a fair way, and it’s something that benefits all of Bali, especially the tourism sector, which we can improve with bigger budgets,” Sudikerta said.

The government’s efforts to safeguard the vital tourism industry come as monthly figures for foreign tourist arrivals are returning to peak levels, reflecting, analysis said, foreigners’ increasing confidence in the island – which this year again has received a slew of international accolades and placed at the top of global destinations in readers’ surveys, beating out favorites like Thailand and Hawaii.

Separately, those involved in the tourism industry here are eyeing a bumper Christmas and New Year’s holiday season, as hotel and inbound airline flight bookings are at full capacity, in some cases exceeding room-and-seat availability, airline and hotel officials told The Times.

To meet demand, national carrier Garuda is adding flights to Bali from Jakarta and elsewhere, it said.

Security across the island has been gradually beefed up in recent months, Bali Police said, pointing to the installation of closed-circuit television cameras at strategic tourist spots and checkpoints.

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