Further warnings have been sounded over the pace of tourism development in Bali, with Dutch professor of service management Jan Hendrik Peters telling an international seminar on green tourism that the island’s social and physical infrastructure is strained beyond its limits.
“Bali is under threat of becoming the victim of its own tourism success story. The high growth of visitors every year has strained the island’s resources and infrastructure beyond its limits,” Peters said.
He said tourism has driven the island’s economy in a positive way with statistics showing a 16 percent rise in the provincial GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 2006-2008, but this was offset by negative factors such as vastly increased visitor numbers.
“Over the years, Bali GDP has grown as a result of the development of tourism activities. Tourism has grown significantly,” Peters said.
The number of foreign visitors to the island had dramatically increased from 1.3 million in 1997 to 2.4 million in 2009. But this had produced negative impacts on the environment and natural resources.
“The character of tourism has changed over the years. Although Bali is still a luxury destination, with its 200 five-star hotels, mass tourism has resulted in hotel developments of hotels all along the southern coastline,” Peters said.
“The increase in absolute tourist arrivals and the associated rise in the number of hotels have triggered a number of effects that are harming the environment and the attractiveness of Bali as a tourist destination.”
Obvious examples of environmental degradation were increased air and water pollution, decreasing forest cover and cuts to agricultural areas.
The one-day seminar, organized by Tri Hita Karana Foundation and the Bali provincial government, was part of the government’s Clean and Green Bali Campaign and Green Province programme.
Gede Ardhika, former minister of culture and tourism and a member of the ethics code committee at the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, said some Balinese were misinformed about what the word tourism meant.
“Some think it means luring as many visitors as possible to generate income for the people and the island’s tourism industry,” he said.
“Bali has tremendous local wisdom including Tri Hita Karana (the harmonious balance between nature, people and culture) in protecting its culture and environment. So tourism must be developed by using this harmonious and centuries-old tradition if we want to build green tourism.”
He added: “In reality, tourism benefits a small group of people and investors while destroying the island’s environment and traditions.”
Another speaker, Ketut Gede Dharma, a member of the Centre for Environment Studies at Udayana University, said tourism’s contribution to deteriorating Bali’s environment was obvious.
“Beaches in South Bali have been heavily polluted. This requires efforts from all stakeholders in the community to improve environmental conditions in Bali,” he said.