Indonesia’s paradise island teeming with beaches and lush rice fields wants to refocus its tourism away from guests who tend to misbehave and instead lure talented nomads, retirees and health buffs.
The local government has deported 136 foreigners since the start of the year for various misconduct including indecent exposure, rowdy behaviour and rule breaking, according to the Bali immigration office.
Just in the past month, a German tourist crashed a show at an Ubud temple by walking naked on stage, while a Danish woman was detained for exposing her genitals in public. A British man is facing trial after assaulting a police officer after refusing to pay his bill at a bar.
The incidents left Bali Governor I Wayan Koster with a dilemma; to either keep on accepting all tourists or be more discriminating while risking the island’s nascent recovery. Then there’s another option: reinvent the island into a health hub and research centre.
Indonesia is looking to partner with Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic to build a medical centre in Sanur, a quiet town on the eastern coast, that will also feature luxury hotels and care facilities for seniors. In Serangan, Bali will develop a research hub to join Tsinghua University’s Southeast Asia Center, according to the coordinating ministry for economic affairs.
Like neighbouring travel destinations, the tourism-reliant island was devastated by the pandemic as many hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops shuttered. While overseas visitors rebounded to 2.16 million last year, from less than 60 in 2021, it’s still just a third of the more than 6 million who came in 2019.
As foreign guests return, Koster is seeking a new tourism blueprint that will limit the entry of the undesirables and attract the ones that tend to spend more, energise the local economy and behave well.
“Tourism remains a mainstay, but it will be in a much different position than before,” Koster said in an interview. “This push will encourage the transformation of Bali, from mass tourism to quality tourism.”
Bali is rolling out the red carpet for potential investors, offering tax breaks as well as easier employment rules and licensing, to deliver 477 trillion rupiah (US$32 billion) of foreign-currency earnings through 2052. A recently passed law grants the island more autonomy to let Koster plan out its economic development.
Misbehaving tourists won’t find the same welcome. Bali is considering imposing an entry tax and a quota for visitors, while banning them from climbing mountains, touching sacred trees or renting motorbikes.
The island is now requiring licensed tour guides to accompany foreigners that are expected to wear modest clothing and abide by the rules.
Foreigners skilled in digital, health, research and technology sectors could qualify for “golden visas” that allow them to own assets and fast-track citizenship. Guests with the equivalent of at least 2 billion rupiah in their bank accounts could get a “second home” visa to stay for up to 10 years.
“Many countries have issued golden visas because they provide many benefits by increasing investment.” said Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno on Monday. The rules on the long stay visas will be issued soon, he added.