Amid seemingly unending local and international crises that continually threaten Bali’s main industry of tourism, that sector has nonetheless remained robust. Yet despite all the swirling negative news worrying travellers’ minds, there is a group of people in Bali that give the island bad international press time and again.
We speak primarily of officials working in Bali’s emergency services who are causing this harm to the island: low-level employees who seek to enrich themselves during holidaying foreigners’ times of urgent need.
It was distressing to learn that Bali’s free ambulance service attempted to extract earlier this month around Rp4 million from the girlfriend of a dying New Zealand man when she phoned for assistance.
Not having the cash on her, no ambulance arrived and the man died from injuries sustained in a bar brawl in Legian. The grieving young woman has since related the extortion-effort story to media in her home country, creating a dismal and antithesis-laden picture of a heartless Bali.
It matters not that the ambulance chiefs insisted their service comes at no cost to anyone; clearly someone usurped them.
Last week this newspaper was contacted by an alarmed mother in the United States whose son was involved in an early morning hit-and-run in Denpasar. She wanted to know why police on this island were asking for US$100 to file a report on the accident.
There are many more tales of this nature, and they extend to officials working in many more departments, some located within the international terminal of Bali’s airport.
We are all too aware that, shamefully, public servants are badly paid and look for any opportunity to boost their incomes, and that for them there’s a general “dollar-sign” air about foreigners. But what some among their ranks are doing is deplorable and injurious to all who work in Bali’s tourism industry that keeps a substantial part of the local population in employment.
Any local officials dealing with foreigners or who have the likelihood of encountering them, such as emergency-services staff, should be professionally trained to respect them as they would their own people, and to expedite what is being sought. This contemptible rip-off has got to stop.
With no real international promotions to entice people to Bali – at least not on the scale of those operated by Malaysia and India, for example – returning tourists’ related tales are what generate the exotic aura and desire to visit.
If Bali’s tourism leaders want that valuable public relations benefit to persist, they had better start talking to those below them.Filed under: Editorial