Ominous 2009 Sign

Reports that the authorities have slashed their budget for promoting Bali this year by 20 percent, leaving it at a paltry Rp4 billion (US$359,000), are disturbing, and a further unwanted example of indifferent leadership.

At a time when Bali stands to gain from strife in neighboring lands, particularly paralyzed Thailand, the government’s promotion budget – for media advertising and taking part in travel fairs, as well as staging overseas roadshows – should be boosted in order to entice people planning holidays to this island.

Bali Tourism Authority chief I Gede Nurjaya said more cash was needed for such essentials as healthcare and initiatives to reduce poverty, and there’s no arguing with that. What we do object to is a failure in outlook to develop Bali’s tourism sector that stands to benefit everyone across the island, in the trickle-down effect that starts at the airport, bars and hotels and ends up in a paycheck being spent in a village market.

Nurjaya – who pointed to the global economic slowdown as one of the reasons for the cutback, though it’s hard to know how that affects an entity’s budget – said promotional activities would be scaled back or halted in markets that are viewed as having little potential, “such as Russia,” which leaves us scratching our heads as to what officials at the Bali Tourism Authority are up to, and if they are clued in at all. (There are at least 88,000 millionaires in Russia, a number that is fast-growing, according to one estimate, and more of them have been vacationing in Bali in recent years, reflected in the appearance on shop signs and promotional pamphlets of the Russian language.)

Bali, as always, will have to take its cue from the private sector, not those in lethargic officialdom and supposedly at the helm.

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