Taxes, bans and QR codes: How Bali is dealing with tourism.

Niluh Djelantik has been on vacation abroad, but the Balinese influencer still gets text messages from frustrated friends, family and fans back home. Djelantik has gained a huge presence on social media by pro bono mediating conflicts between tourists and locals on the island. Whenever a tourist cheats on Bali, she gets flooded with calls for help; recent examples of foreigner brutality on the Indonesian island include a Danish woman who exposed herself on the back of a motorbike and an American man who beat up a police car and an Australian man who spat at someone in a mosque.

“It never ends,” Gerantick said.

But even in her absence, she welcomed the news. If she’s up to date, “I can do everything I can to make things better,” she said. If she’s traveling, this could retweet bad behavior to spread awareness, or share information with law enforcement or immigration officials. When she is at home, she personally helps facilitate meetings and apologies between offending foreigners and locals.

Bali’s government is aware of the ongoing frustration on the island and has pledged to do more to change its reputation as a cheap party destination and curb violations. As of June, Bali had deported 136 foreigners this year for misbehaving, for reasons ranging from indecent exposure, rough behavior and failure to obey local laws, according to Bloomberg.

In July, Bali Governor Wayan Koster announced a $10 tourism tax, which will come into effect in mid-2024. One-time fees apply only to foreign visitors and are paid electronically. Coster said the tax is not expected to reduce bad behavior but to support infrastructure and environmental projects, the Bangkok Post reported.

It is also trying out new schemes to reduce destructive behavior by travelers and preserve local Hindu customs. These included distributing a do’s and don’ts list to travelers and announcing a so-called mountain ban that has yet to be enforced.

Sacred Mountain Attracts Tourist Stunts

Bali’s volcanoes are considered sacred by the Balinese and are one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island. But they have been the backdrop for some recent stunts, like a foreigner who posted a bottomless photo of himself and was later deported.

During a news conference on May 31, the governor proposed banning activities on 22 hills, except for religious ceremonies, said Febria Diah Retnoningsih, Counselor for Social, Cultural and Information Affairs at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington.

However, in the two months since the announcement, “it is not clear whether the rule has been implemented,” Reitnoningsi said in an email.

For now, people are still visiting the mountains and posting about trekking trips on social media, although the governor, when announcing the ban, said it was “immediate and permanent,” a reporter for the Bali Sun newspaper said. . You can chat freely under the condition of anonymity.

“It’s just that the legislation hasn’t been passed yet,” the reporter continued. “So no one is breaking the law, but no one is following the new rules either.”

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The last time Ravindra Singh Shekhawat, Intrepid Travel’s general manager of operations in Bali, reached the summit of Mount Batur, there were more than 500 tourists, each group accompanied by a guide. On and near the base, locals make a living selling wares and running restaurants and hotels. If formally implemented, the ban would affect the entire network, Shekawat said.

Djelantik does not support the ban on mountain tourism, arguing that a blanket ban would penalize tourists who comply, as well as the local communities that Shekhawat mentioned. Instead, she would rather see the government enforce existing rules and punish bad actors accordingly.

“If you have a big rat in your house … you’re not going to burn down the house,” Gerantik said.

please don’t climb the sacred tree

In an effort to educate foreigners, the government issued cards explaining local etiquette to tourists arriving at the airport in June, and the cards now exist in the form of QR codes that travelers can scan, The Jakarta Globe reported.

The prohibitions include eight items such as avoiding climbing sacred trees, littering, working or trading illegally, using non-recyclable plastics, wearing “inappropriate” clothing for photos around holy places and entering main areas of holy places except for prayers and pray. Wear traditional Balinese clothing (although this is not allowed for anyone who is menstruating). The card concluded: “All crimes will be punished by law or deportation.”

Lael Kassis, vice president of market innovation and development for EF Go Ahead Tours, which will launch a Bali itinerary in 2024, said the more informed travelers are about visiting a new destination, the better, and support for the new card.

“What Bali is doing is really relying on technology to make this information accessible to travelers — making it simple and transparent,” he said. “The more information travelers have, I think that’s a good thing.”

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Djelantik agrees that learning Balinese law and etiquette is important. She also encouraged tourists to consider the rules in their home countries as well. If it’s illegal to strip naked for a photo in your hometown, it’s probably illegal where you’re vacationing or living as a digital nomad.

The spirit of these cards may be noble, but some wonder if they will reach their target audience. A Bali Sun reporter, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the settlement appeared to be a hasty move to address public concerns. They say the tourists most likely to cause problems are not the kind who read dry educational material or scan QR codes.

Wayan Wardika, a sustainability activist and founder of Tegal Dukuh Camp, said better on-site management could help, such as better signage at temples and holy sites, or requiring guided tours. To be clear, temples were not built for decoration, but for community.

“I think Bali stands out because we’ve lived and preserved the cultural heritage of all these holy places, and a lot of tourists take that for granted,” Vardika said. “I’m not saying all of it, what I’m trying to say is that most of the guests and visitors have a high level of respect for what we do.”

When there is an influx of unusual tourists, especially visitors to Bali’s holy places, there is a knock-on effect. The community must participate in cleaning rituals to restore harmony.

“Locals have a lot of work to do to keep the sanctity of this place after what happened,” Shekhawat said.

The cost of such ceremonies depends on the severity of the incident.

“In Bali, we have three levels of ceremony,” Vardika said. Vardika said it was up to village leaders and residents to decide where the incident took place.

Djelantik arranged a ceremony after the tourist was in the abyss of Mount Agung, which she said cost about $350. In more extreme cases, such as when a German woman walked naked through a temple during a sacred performance in May, a cleansing ceremony could cost more than $1,000, Vardika said.

When foreigners break the rules, the damage is often twofold. Not only did they disrespect the local community, “they didn’t want to pay the price,” Vardika said. “We have to pay.”

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Djelantik, a social media defender, worries that some new measures, such as the tourist tax, will anger tourists or make them feel unwelcome in Bali. But she said the backlash had nothing to do with tourism in general.

“It’s not because we hate foreigners or because we don’t appreciate having them. … In fact, it’s the exact opposite,” Djelantik said.

“We’re really grateful. We love them,” she continued. “But at the same time, we as human beings … we also have every right to defend our homeland.”

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