Bali planned to re-open to American tourism this month Instead they’re reducing quarantine requirements to 5 days I’m feeling good about my decision to drop Bali as a destination next month. Bali has been pushing hard against the string of the Indonesian government since last year.
“All this time tourism has not really directly benefited the people of Bali, it has only been enjoyed by investors from outside,” Koster said yesterday.
…“I have continued to evaluate. But the biggest mistake in Bali is our dependence on tourism,” Koster added.
The governor is “working on a new economic concept” to prioritize “local resources..cover[ing] sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, and cultural crafts, with tourism development being placed last.”
Early in the year, after Australia had blown its vaccination program and had tremendous catch up to do, Australian politicians were talking smack about the effectiveness of vaccines. Despite consistent promises of re-opening tourism, Bali officials have been trumped by the central Indonesian government. Facing this failure they’re suddenly saying tourism isn’t helpful.
- If tourism is important and the government has crushed it then it’s a major failure of… those same politicians.
- On the other hand if they didn’t want tourism anyway, they’ve had their priorities right and are serving the people well.
There’s no question that the economy of Bali has suffered especially heavily because it shut down to tourism, given how much tourism matters there. But saying ‘we don’t want tourism and want something else instead‘ is a mistake. It’s also not simply possible for politicians to replace half the economy with something else that they’re less well-suited to and expect success.
Claiming that tourism benefits outside investors is a bit misleading, since swapping out the which big investors benefit doesn’t accrue to the livelihoods of people generally – just which cronyist interests make money, and which politicians extract rents.
Meanwhile tourism does benefit Bali,
- Construction. The new Andaz Bali didn’t just suddenly spring up ex nihilo, for instance.
- Hospitality jobs. Local workers earn a living supporting tourism. So, too, local guides, boat workers, dive shop staff and the like. So, too, airline and airport workers. “Replacing tourism” means upending their livelihoods and displacing them.
- Entrepreneurs. Restaurant owners, craft shop owners, and companies that make those crafts in the first place benefit from tourism demand.
Tourism isn’t just something that matters in lesser-developed countries. It matters tremendously to France and to the United States. Bali may want ‘more than tourism’ and more job opportunities will drive up wages as a result of competition from other opportunities. And there are some steps that policy can take, such as a friendly tax and regulatory climate, to foster this. But that’s a model of tourism-plus, not tourism-substitution.
Indeed, replacing tourism means less demand for workers, so that they have no choice but to work cheap for different business owners in different industries. Maybe, in addition to excusing pandemic failures, that’s also the goal.
(HT: Drew J.)