Almost for two years, the world has been smothered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Inevitably, this condition results in a significant change for the development of the world. No country can avoid its social, cultural and financial impact. This pandemic phenomenon inevitably creates a new order in human life. Experts say that this virus will last forever, so it is just a matter of how humans prepare themselves to adapt.
The pandemic indeed has extraordinary impact on Bali as part of the world’s community. As one of the best tourist destinations, Bali is experiencing suspended animation. Virtually no tourism movements are detected. Even if they do exist, they stay very sporadically and do not cause any significant effects.
Well, when this condition continues and all parties are struggling to get out of this crisis, a variety of options appear whether Bali continues to survive in this cultural tourism sector or there is another alternative. For example, we can go back to basic again to the agricultural sector as it used to be in the 1970s.
As someone who has made a living in tourism since 1969, I am intrigued to just give opinion. When Balinese people are faced with two choices like this, we should choose cultural tourism. It is cultural tourism inspired by Hinduism, and imbued by an agrarian culture that cannot but must exist in the level of cultural tourism.
My choice is based on what was published on Bali Post daily newspaper explaining that the interest of foreign tourists coming to visit Bali is very high supported by competitiveness in the 3A2P (Attraction, Amenities, Accomodation, People and Promotion) aspects. This is very extraordinary, especially since we have a special minister to take care of tourism.
Bali tourism has a long history. The tourism sector on the Island of the Gods began with the establishment of Koninlijke Paketvaart Maatsscappij (KPM), a Dutch shipping company operating in the Dutch East Indies. KPM took care of Dutch employees who came from Batavia (Jakarta) for a vacation to Bali. To support this condition, the Bali Hotel was established in Denpasar, even though their ship was anchored in Buleleng.
In addition to the Dutch employees, there were also public tourists who were often great figures of the world. For example, Miguel Covarrudias came with his wife and wrote a phenomenal book entitled The Island of Bali. Then, there were also artists and scholars who came to Bali, such as Walter Spies, Margareth Meads, Dr. Goris, and a number of well-known names in the international world. They were the ones who contributed to promoting Bali on the global stage.
Several years ago, there came a tourist from Belgium, Eric Domb, who built a very large temple in Belgium, namely Santi Bhuwana Temple which is visited by many foreign tourists. Tourism people in Bali, of course, will not forget the name Le Mayeur as a Belgian painter, settled in Bali and married Ni Polok who was the model. Mayeur then handed over his museum located in Sanur area to the government.
Prior to the pandemic hit, Bali provided extraordinary foreign exchanges for the government so that some said that Bali was like a chicken laying golden eggs. On the basis of everything described above, I am very optimistic to choose Bali to remain in the field of cultural tourism. Right now, it is very, very difficult. However, with our hard work, by implementing the health protocol of wearing masks, frequently washing hands in running water and avoiding crowds, I am greatly confident that based on the will of God the Covid-19 case will come down quickly.
When comparing today’s tourism of Bali to that of the 1970s—when I was still starting it is certainly very, very different whether in terms of infrastructure, facilities, destination conditions, government policies, human resource factors and so on. Now, we are very competitive and it is time for us to remain optimistic and more enthusiastic to stay on the path of cultural tourism. Even if there are shortcomings and mistakes, let’s mutually give input for the sake of our love for Bali.
Once again, I’d like to emphasize that Balinese people that I love do not leave cultural tourism. We must often discuss with different points of view. However, different perspectives should be used to broaden and sharpen horizons. Hopefully, the Covid-19 pandemic will pass quickly. (I Gusti Kompyang Pujawan MBA, a senior figure Pesemetonan Denpasar-Fukuoka)