Bali’s Biggest Attraction: Its People – BT Poll

Bali, culture, peopleBy William J. Furney
Managing Editor
The Bali Times
With staff reporters

SEMINYAK ~ Most people come to Bali to experience the warmth and friendliness of the Balinese themselves, followed by the island’s cornucopia of bars and restaurants – and the tropical weather, says a poll conducted by The Bali Times this week.

In a survey conducted in key tourist areas in Kuta district, more than 50 percent of foreign vacationers said the unrivaled sociability of the Balinese was a key factor in their decision to come to Bali during this current peak season.

“The kindness and welcome of the Balinese is unbelievable; they seem so happy,” said Frenchman Thierry.

While the benevolence of the Balinese – famed the world over for their compassion, laid-back attitude and love of peace and harmony – was a common theme that ran throughout respondents’ remarks to Bali Times journalists, the island’s sparkling nightlife and year-round balmy weather were also big draws.

For others, the low value of local currency the rupiah against foreign currencies was a boon, meaning those on a budget could afford to stay in luxury during the course of their vacation.

Still others pointed to the island’s dramatic, verdant landscape as an inspiration for traveling to Bali.

In recent years, Bali has become an international meeting point for well-heeled people around the world, a place where fun and work can often coexist, especially as the island moves ever more upmarket and interconnected thanks to high-speed internet availability.

“The weather is important, and you can meet people from many nations here,” was a comment from Luca Mazzi from Italy.

Beaches – and the world-class surfing their shorelines provide – were also an important vacation factor, respondents said.

And for Chalveret Cetherihe of Switzerland, there was a balance between Bali’s colorful culture and the tourism industry.

“There’s a good compromise between the culture and good, trendy places,” she said.

Meanwhile, as the island’s tourism reaches its zenith, hotels are reporting full occupancy, another robust indication that the industry has more than fully recovered from previous setbacks, analysts said.

Statistics from the Bali Tourism Office show tourist arrivals for the first half of 2007 are significantly higher than last year.

Figures record 745,949 tourist arrivals in Bali between January and June, compared to 552,573 during the same period last year.

There were 145,174 arrivals in June alone, and hoteliers in Kuta say that bookings for July were also high.

Budget guesthouses in the Poppies Lane 2 area, popular with surfers, backpackers and domestic tourists, have been fully booked in recent weeks, according to staff.

Mid-range hotels have also been busy.

“We have 90 rooms here, and there are only five vacant at the moment,” said Ibu Mucami of the Masa Inn on Poppies Lane 1, adding that the hotel has been unusually busy since February.

She said staff had noticed an increase in visitors from Eastern Europe this year.

Mucami said a July warning from the Australian government – which advised citizens not to travel to Bali due to the threat of terrorism – had had no effect on visitor numbers.

“There are still a lot of Australian guests. Of course Bali is safe now, so tourists are happy to come here,” she said.

Dewi Supartini of Perama Travel on Jl. Legian agreed, and also confirmed that there had been an increase of visitors from Eastern Europe.

“We haven’t noticed any negative effect of the Australian government warning,” Supartini said, adding that June and July had been busier than previous years.

According to Supartini, Perama has received some concerned enquiries from tourists after a recent European Union ban of all Indonesian airlines due to safety issues, but she added that the ban could provide an unexpected windfall for her company.

“People might use our boat service to Lombok and Flores instead of flying,” she said.

And foreign tourists interviewed by The Times said they felt comfortable and secure in Bali.

Veronica from Perth, Australia, visiting Indonesia for the first time with her family, said that although she had read her government’s travel warning, she had decided to visit Bali anyway.

“It does make you think, but I’m glad we came – it’s so nice and relaxed here,” she said, adding that highly visible security measures such as checks and metal detectors at shopping malls and upmarket hotels helped to inspire confidence.

“I don’t feel worried about safety here, not at all.”

Veronica said that most Australians still had a positive impression of Bali despite their government’s position.

“When you tell people you’re going to Bali, most of them just say ‘You lucky thing!’” she said.

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