Own Worst Enemy

Every visitor to our shores is all too aware of the harassment by local vendors that they encounter – Balinese and other Indonesians brashly and forcibly peddling everything from trinkets to “transport.” It is a frustrating experience that mars their time spent here and clouds their view of Bali as an island of tranquillity.

And the high-pitched sales wail is unrelenting. Increasingly this unwanted, image-damaging scene is being reported overseas, most recently in the Australian press this week, in an article in the influential Sydney Morning Herald titled “Bali: why bother?”

The writer, Carolyn Webb, wrote of the pestering she endured: “In the space of a week I started to hate walking the streets of Ubud – a bizarre thing when you’re supposed to be relaxing on holidays.” And she, rightly, asked: “My point is, aren’t there better ways of doing business? If a tourist is treated so badly they don’t want to ever return, isn’t that a bad thing for Bali?”

It is. We agree that the haranguing by vendors has to stop, that the fever-pitch hysteria in snaring a tourist sale has to end. In its place calm and respect must be instilled. If sellers’ products are enticing enough, they will sell; not many will be forced into buying items because of salesperson pressure.

As, outrageously, with drugs being openly sold on our streets, the authorities must also cleanse our retail zones. Shop owners and their employees must be told that harassment of anyone is not acceptable and that their behaviour will be monitored – the public-order officers of Satpol PP are excellent candidates for this job. Our politicians need to legislate for sanctions, including harsh fines.

Let’s have some commonsense in our retail sector, however informal parts of it is, and let’s not scare away any more people. We need to ensure that any visit to Bali will be a calming and relaxing one, right around the island.

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