In a tropical paradise teeming with tourists, locals struggle to maintain their cherished traditions as they grapple with an unprecedented invasion of camera-wielding, party-seeking visitors.
Swarming with tourists, Bali’s locals grow increasingly frustrated as their beloved island paradise becomes unrecognizable. January saw a staggering 91,254 Australian visitors and 22,104 Russians, making Bali one of the most sought-after global travel destinations. However, local residents are now seeking respite from the overwhelming number of tourists, some of whom have gone so far as to call the police over noise complaints about chickens.
Nine years ago, Fatmawati, an Indonesian personal assistant and freelance photographer, moved to Bali from Java. Fatmawati, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name. She expresses her disdain for certain tourists, saying, “We have a lot of tolerance here… but it’s this behavior of ‘I am the more important person. Look at me.’ It’s disgusting – people are tired of it. I’m tired of it.”
Ravindra Singh Shekhawat, general manager of Intrepid Travel, recalls February 2022, when the roads and hotels were empty. Now, however, he says, “It’s definitely very busy. There are tourists everywhere.” Shekhawat notes that many people view Bali as a party island, which may be why they overlook the deeply rooted traditions of the local population.
Shekhawat laments the conflicts that arise between tourists and locals over issues that are beyond anyone’s control, such as religious processions causing traffic detours. He argues that the opinions of the local people should carry weight, saying, “It’s their land, it’s their island, and they should be allowed to follow their culture and tradition as they want to.”
Justin Smith, the owner of the luxury travel-planning company Evolved Traveler, believes the situation has escalated beyond acceptable limits. He says, “There’s an absolute lack of respect for the destination, and for Bali to be pushed to that extent, that means this bad behavior is pretty extensive.” Smith and his team strive to be more responsible when visiting Bali, recognizing the island’s fragility and aiming to help preserve it for future generations.
Smith explains, “We’ve tried to be mindful in terms of how much waste we produce, how much noise we make, and how much we disturb the environment. We want to be respectful of the locals and make sure that our activities are not causing additional stress on Bali’s resources.”
In the end, the key to preserving Bali’s future is respecting its culture, valuing the opinions of its people, and minimizing our impact when visiting the island. As tourism remains crucial for Bali’s economy and residents, responsible management is essential to ensure this enchanting island isn’t tarnished by unbridled tourism.