Staying on Top

It’s cheering that the Australian online holiday-booking service Wotif reports that Bali is the No. 1 destination of choice of its users. We can take some pride in the fact that our island has knocked Singapore – a world city – from its three-year supremacy on the Wotif scale. Bali clearly has more to offer Wotif customers than Singapore. But Bali is not a shopping attraction in the same way that Singapore is. We sell a different product.

Bali’s ascendancy, then, should properly be seen as the result not only of frenetic promotion but of shifting choices among intending travellers. We are a resort island, not a business centre. We are a place where people get down and chill. Apparently more people than ever want to do this, which is good for us and we should capitalise on it, especially on the back of upbeat global tourism forecasts for 2011 and beyond revealed this week in the annual World Travel Mart survey from London.

It testifies to the fortitude of our visitors – well, we must suppose so – that they are not deflected from Bali by rabies, dengue, steeply rising rates of HIV/AIDS infection and now Legionnaire’s disease. But that does not mean the provincial government can simply decide it needn’t bother over much with getting its house – and Bali’s – in order.

In that sense, perhaps we would be better advised to conclude that we’ve had a reprieve. We have been given a second chance (well, really a third or fourth chance) for an alchemy of reasons, not least the ultra-low air fares now available to those from elsewhere who would like to be Bali-bound.

If we have breathing space, then we should use it not only to further reinforce brand Bali but to fix the health problems that plainly exist. Bali’s leaders – at all levels, both private and public – are great at platitudes. No problem! We’ll fix it. And if that actually ever happened, that would be good, too.

But it doesn’t. Today’s problem becomes tomorrow’s forgotten issue. It’s easier not to bother if you convince yourself – however vacuously – that the tourist market is a cup that will never run dry. But only people who live in a fool’s paradise would bet on that.

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