Bali Needs a Second, Northern Airport

A second international airport in the north of Bali would be a boost to the island as a whole, enrich parts that do not now directly benefit from the tourism boom and relieve a glut of human traffic in the south.

Despite Vice President Yusuf Kalla’s instruction to revamp the existing Ngurah Rai International Airport, there is little that can be done to expand the overburdened facility – as it’s hemmed in by mangrove swamps and ocean – and the planned refurbishment is already drawing criticism from Bali politicians.

They charge that the changes will largely result in a glitzy shopping arcade, due to the number of retail outlets in the blueprint, and do little to actually cater for rising numbers of foreign tourists, which is what all the efforts are about.

Reality-minded Governor I Made Mangku Pastika then announced, last week, that he had gotten backing from the government in Jakarta for an exploratory project to determine the feasibility of a second international airport in the north.

There is no reason why Bali should not have two international airports, and if the authorities here are serious about their commitment to expanding tourism, by drawing in ever-greater numbers of overseas vacationers, they need to start thinking smart and acting collaboratively.

The current airport’s location, in Renon, does not exactly give a picture-perfect image of Bali for first-time tourists, and is gridlocked traffic-wise.

Before they have even left the airport, visitors, many exhausted from long-haul flights, are subjected to long queues in sweltering heat to get visas or have their passports stamped. We have heard many tales of extortion by opportunistic customs officers. This is not the welcome Bali is world-famous for, and this tourism-negating airport has become a national embarrassment.

And so, some competition would indeed by healthy.

Spread tourism around the island, and everyone will benefit. Start with the second, northerly airport, and in tandem develop the island’s infrastructure to make this a paradise island with heavenly facilities.

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