And Now for Some Good News

In the midst of a slew of never-ending gloom and crises, from health scares to terrorism to economic woes, it was most heartening to learn that Bali has once again been voted the world’s top island destination, by readers of a leading American travel magazine.

This tiny island with its innate charms and beauty has repeatedly been at the top of the annual poll by Travel + Leisure, a New York-based publication. It testifies to Bali’s enduring allure the world over.

The accolade also demonstrates that slick multimillion-dollar marketing campaigns are not essential to draw in tourists; but such programmes can, however, be hugely beneficial. The tourism authorities here lack budgets, but the dreamy perception of this tropical island keeps people coming anyway.

In many ways, Bali tourism is still in its infancy, having gradually developed over many decades. If we draw a comparison with Hawaii – a matured tourism destination – it is early days yet for this island. Witness the number of developments that have sprung up in recent years, from hotels and apartments to that newcomer, the condotel, the staple of Hawaiian tourism, raising fears that Bali’s once-pristine environment will be compromised if such building continues at its current rampant pace.

Closer to home, in the competition for holiday destinations in Southeast Asia, Bali’s peace and stability has trumped that of its neighbours, notably in protest-wracked Thailand and elsewhere. It is essential that Bali not fall prey to turmoil, whether generated locally or by external elements, and that the local authorities pay heed to areas that are lacking, such as infrastructure, bureaucracy – including the process of issuing visas to tourists – and increasing traffic snarls and associated pollution. Maintaining the current level of security is also vital.

With foreign tourist arrivals set to reach a record 2 million this year, while various calamities play out around the world, tourism has never been stronger in Bali. Let us hope it stays that way.

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