Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika has responded to an unflattering article about Bali in Time magazine by admitting that the provincial government had failed to maintain Bali’s image, while Culture and Tourism Minister Jero Wacik blamed the weather for the island’s problems.
The article, Holidays in Hell: Bali’s Ongoing Woes, lists a litany of woes caused by poorly regulated tourism development in Bali, from crumbling infrastructure and dirty beaches to an upsurge in violent crime targeting foreigners.
It said Bali was suffering from “uncollected trash, overflowing sewage-treatment plants and traffic so bad that parts of the island resemble Indonesia’s gridlocked capital Jakarta.”
Responding to the article, Pastika said it would be wrong for politicians and tourism leaders in Bali to take a defensive approach.
“What are we supposed to do if the facts are undeniably like that?” he said.
“We’re judged by other people, not by ourselves, and clearly there has been a failure on the part of the Bali provincial government in maintaining the image of tourism and providing comfortable facilities.”
The article mentioned Pastika’s recent moratorium on new hotel developments in southern Bali, but expressed scepticism over the effectiveness of such a move.
Pastika said that claims that the article was a deliberate attempt to discredit Bali were unfounded.
“There’s no need to say prejudicial things like that. Time magazine is a credible media, read by people all over the world,” he said, adding that a more positive response would be to take swift action to address the problems listed in the article.
Pastika said that in many places Bali was indeed dirty and congested, and he did not contest the article’s description of “dunes of surf-tossed garbage” on Kuta Beach.
“We also need to change the mind-set of society when it comes to just throwing litter all over the place,” he said.
Pastika admitted that such high-profile negative coverage would have an impact on Bali, but said that he had coordinated with the Bali Tourism Board to seek long- and short-term solutions to the problems. He called on all parties to work hard to restore Bali’s image.
“If we want Bali to be known as a paradise island, it needs to be like paradise. That’s a goal we all need to work on together,” he said.
In Jakarta, meanwhile, Minister Wacik said high winds rather than poor governance were responsible for Bali’s dirty beaches, claiming that litter was blown onshore from elsewhere. He dismissed the Time article as an exaggeration.
“In the end the tourists will come back,” he said.
Bali Tourism Agency chief Ida Bagus Subhiksu up to 300 garbage trucks a day were needed to collect rubbish in the Kuta area.
“We are not closing our eyes. It’s true that we have a waste problem. In Kuta, there will be more garbage trucks designated for the area as extra funding for waste management there has been approved,” he said.
He added that much of the litter on the beaches came from islands outside Bali.
Visitor numbers to Bali are growing – 2.3 million foreign tourists came last year and 2.5 million are expected this year.