New Year’s Eve in Bali was pretty tame. It rained of course because it always rains in Bali on New Year, but it was an 11 o’clock curfew for bars, restaurants and clubs and a ban on gatherings and parties that really put the damper on things.
I’m sure a lot of people would’ve loved to celebrate the New Year in style, in the hope that nothing, but nothing could be worse than the year just gone.
2020 started full of promise though. Tourism arrivals to Bali were on track to break the all-time records set in 2019. And 2019 had just smashed 2018 out of the ballpark. We were gearing up for another bumper year and, there’s no doubt, hopes and projections were as high as they’d ever been.
Then the lights went out.
If you’re in the tourism industry you might want to sit down and pour yourself a stiff drink for this because thanks to COVID-19, tourism in Bali took a real beating in 2020. And when the island’s economy is so overly dependent on mass tourism that has had serious consequences.
Inquirer.net are reporting Bali lost an estimated Rp48.5 trillion (US$3.4 billion) in tourism revenue from March to July, according to data from the Bali Tourism Agency. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the 326,000 small and medium enterprises (SME) in the province’s food and beverage and creative economy sectors have closed.
That doesn’t include the trillions more lost revenue after Bali’s provincial government introduced last-minute regulations on all visitors over Christmas and the New Year, which according to local news wires, resulted in more than 130,000 people cancelling their travel plans to Bali within 24 hours of the edict being announced.
Bali is Not Alone
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), international arrivals fell by 72 percent over the first ten months of 2020, with restrictions on travel, low consumer confidence and a global struggle to contain the COVID-19 virus, all contributing to the worst year on record in the history of tourism. The latest UNWTO data suggests destinations welcomed 900 million fewer international tourists between January and October when compared with the same period of 2019. This translates into a loss of US$935 billion in export revenues from international tourism, more than ten times the loss in 2009 under the impact of the global economic crisis.
That should be a huge wake-up call for any tourism-related business, especially in Bali and the question we’re being asked most right now is what happens next? If global tourism has been hit this hard is there any hope for Bali’s future?
Well, at Seven Stones Indonesia we believe in the power of a positive mindset. We believe in helping our clients, partners and communities create a better world and to focus on what matters most to them. We deliver solutions, peace-of-mind and we help businesses grow, which is why we encourage our partners to use these extraordinary times to determine what can be done more efficiently and to best prepare for the future.
That doesn’t mean we’re burying our heads in the sand and ignoring reality – quite the opposite. We see where the problems and roadblocks are but we’re also seeing opportunities; opportunities to focus on quality instead of quantity; opportunities to create and develop alternative energy and manage waste; opportunities to improve infrastructure and opportunities to help build stronger, more sustainable communities through improved education and health.
Seeing these opportunities isn’t about crystal balls and tea leaves. What we’re actually doing is trying to make sense of what we have, today. Albert Einstein is supposedly credited with saying “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” So, when we look at a place like Bali and how it has been crippled by its over-dependence on mass tourism, it makes sense to approach potential solutions from a different angle. And we think the angle is quite clearly green, holistic and experiential.
Rocket Science This Ain’t
For years now, groups, organisations, companies and individuals have all been waving red flags helping people become aware that sustainably looking after our environment is an investment in our future. We all intuitively know this of course, and I have no doubt we would all choose greener alternatives if they were easier to find and if they were more affordable. So why don’t we? What have we got to lose?
Maybe we’re afraid of change. Maybe we’re scared of standing out and being ridiculed. Maybe we’re waiting for other people to make the first move. Maybe we just don’t care enough. Maybe we’re just lazy.
I’d argue we have the science and technology. We have the people and businesses and resources. We certainly have the money, investments and funding. We have a young, dynamic, tech-savvy generation of entrepreneurs focused on sustainability and green solutions. So, what’s the problem?
Unfortunately, it seems we lack leadership. This is a very sensitive area, I know, and there’s always room to argue why things aren’t being done, but leadership needs to wake up and smell the roses and do the right things because they’re the right things to do – for everyone.
Just to make it clear, in this context leadership isn’t restricted to politicians because it’s too easy to use politicians as scapegoats, especially these days. I’m also talking about heads of companies, communities and groups. And in that sense, we should all consider ourselves to be “leaders.”
Oscar Wilde once famously said, “what seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” So here are some areas I think Bali has blessings if we choose to see them.
Blessings in Disguise and Future Possibilities
Hotels and resorts could lead the way in developing experiential, eco-conscious packages so we begin to have “Quality Wars” instead of “Price Wars.” They could spend more of their energy and resources on promoting the Tri Hita Karana (THK) concept of prosperity and wellbeing by being in harmony with people, the environment and God/ spirituality.
PLN, the state-owned electricity supplier, could step up to the plate and wean itself off fossil fuels and support alternative energy options. They could, for example, encourage investment and kick-start the electric vehicle revolution by building more charging stations across Bali.
Education could be exponentially improved by offering incentives for university franchises. Likewise, for health, hospitals supporting medical tourism initiatives could and would have a long-lasting and positive impact on local communities.
Spatial planning and water management should be taken more seriously. Waste management should include developing Waste to Power initiatives and encourage everyone from manufacturers and suppliers to consumers to actively contribute to a cleaner, greener island.
Maybe this sounds too idealistic, too Utopian, too naïve. And maybe it is, but it’s not impossible. If like-minded individuals and businesses decided to work together to help create a more eco-conscious and community-minded future in Bali we’d all benefit from the results. And so, would our customers, regardless of our business.
If you or your business shares the vision and you’re looking for innovative ideas and ways to have a long-term positive impact in Bali and beyond, let us know. We’d love to help!
Email: [email protected]
Sources: The Jakarta Post, Republika, Inquirer.net, UNWTO, Antara News, Eco-Business.2021 Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.