SEMINYAK ~ The number of foreign tourist arrivals to Bali was almost on par with previous boon times, new central government data show, as the level of foreign investment continued to grow.
By William J. Furney
The Bali Times
A total of 122,848 overseas nationals arrived on the island in December, a massive increase of 61.9 percent on the same month a year earlier, figures from the Central Statistics Bureau reveal.
Analysis of the data show that Bali is attracting vacationers from parts of the world that have not been traditionally strong, while previous mainstays Australia and Japan remain below usual figures.
For 2006, Bali welcomed 1.26 million people from other lands, the bureau said, a level almost on a par with the previous 12-month period.
In actuality, however, total arrivals for last year were up 26.9 percent compared to 2003, when the island underwent disturbances, observers said.
Data from the Investment Coordinating Board in Jakarta show, meanwhile, that licenses issued to foreign companies in Bali totaled 70 up to November 2006, with the value of investment rising to US$101.2 million, up on $97.5 million the year before.
One of the major investments of recent years that came onstream towards the end of last year was the ultra-luxurious Bvlgari Resort in the scenic cliff-top area of Uluwatu on Baliâ€™s southern node, the second such multimillion-dollar property by the elegant Italian jeweler following an initial hotel in Milan.
Key developments in 2007 include a hypermarket currently being constructed by the French Carrefour chain on Jl. Sunset Road in Kuta district.
Currently, Carrefour, which came to Indonesia in 1998, operates 22 hypermarkets in seven Indonesian cities – Jakarta, Medan, Palembang, Makassar, Yogyakarta, Surabaya and Bandung, and employs more than 7,500 people, according to the companyâ€™s corporate information.
The Bali hypermarket is due to open in around three monthsâ€™ time, at the latest by the end of April, a site official who gave his name as Kristian told The Bali Times on Wednesday.
At the firmâ€™s corporate office in Jakarta, officials refused to disclose details of the investment in Bali, merely saying that now was a good time to focus on Bali.
â€œWe hope to do good business in Bali, which is where we are focusing right now,â€ Carrefour spokesman Irawan told The Times on Thursday, refusing to comment further on the nature or value of the investment.
Meanwhile, the official confirmation of Bali returning to its former boon times comes as the local government of Badung Regency, where most of the islandâ€™s tourism industry is located, works on a program to upgrade Baliâ€™s infrastructure and facilities, under a plan dubbed Bali #1 Destination 2001, which aims to draw increasing numbers of foreign tourists to these shores.
Among the plans are a tripling of Ngurah Rai International Airport to handle the projected tourist influx, including a lengthening of its runway, development of roads and green areas and a cleanup of the environment that is especially despoiled during the current rainy season by waste flowing onto beaches and into the ocean.
And while Baliâ€™s economy and lure continue to grow, one foreign writer sings the islandâ€™s praises in a just-published article in an American newspaper.
“Bali is so gorgeous, you can’t help but gasp from time to time when a hillside terraced with rice paddies or a thousand-year old temple comes into view,” wrote Karyn Lindberg of Californiaâ€™s San Jose Mercury News, in an article titled â€œBask in Bali’s beauty: There’s magic to be found on Indonesian island.â€
â€œThe magic in Bali is found everywhere – in the lush beauty of the surrounding countryside, in the rich cultural traditions and in some of the best bargain hunting in the world. The true beauty of this remarkable little island, however, is the kindness and goodness of the people. Deeply spiritual, they seem to be born with an understanding of the meaning of life it takes Westerners decades to learn.â€