Has Bali Painted Itself into a Corner?

Soapbox | Written By, Alistair G. Speirs |

Have you ever seen that great cartoon of the man proudly doing his own home decoration, setting himself high standards of quality and finish , carefully preparing his work tools and his schedule then finally starting on the “ piece de resistance” a magnificent wooden floor he has sanded and buffed, and now is varnishing…

He carefully works backwards across the floor keeping every brushstroke long and clean. He is doing a marvellous job until…he realises he is in the corner of the room with no way out except across the beautiful floor he has just painted …or a long wait in the corner.

That’s kind of where we are in Bali today as we finally realise the total dependence we have on tourism, and there is no way out except to either wait for it to recover or set out making very visible footprints across the landscape as we reassess our whole future business strategy. To be dependent on one industry is okay if we have more than one market and more than one area of interest but when all markets and all areas are equally affected then we have trouble with a capital T. 

In the past we had Australia as the mainstay, then Japan, with the Europeans adding good numbers and the US not far behind. Then we realised the short-haul short-stay Southeast Asian markets were ripe for picking , then the Middle East and, of course, India. An absolute treasure trove of visitor sources to pick from. 

Then we could nicely divide into the culture and nature market, the surf and dive guys, the party animals and club-goers and the family “park, raft and slide” markets. And when they went wrong…there was always the meetings and conference market, since Bali is the best place for a company seminar or meeting!

That’s how we got into the corner, we thought there was simply no way any of these markets could all go bad at the same time – WRONG. They have, and our crisis management, risk preparedness people (if we had any?) completely forgot the global pandemic, when all markets cease operation at the same time . And our plan B is sitting with us in the corner, looking at us for inspiration. Hi! 

Well we cannot sit and wait, its time to think now, and start to change the proportions of the Bali economy and wind down the dependency of tourism- now! We need to focus on the creative industries: advertising, film-making, music and fashion, the Balinese are very artistic, we need to look at education and training centres, we need to expand the furniture and furnishings business, to add to the organic farming, and increase the number of world class hospitals and go for medical tourism as a wonderful response to losing our industry to  a virus ! There are many things that can – and must – be done. 

Read our article: ‘Eggs in Different Baskets’ for a follow up on this subject.

Yes we may leave some foot prints across the floor , but they should be left there to remind us that we must not allow ourselves to be trapped into a corner again. 


This article is from our June Issue, out now:

Bali: The Restart

In this issue we share insight from experts and island-insiders on sustainability, destination management, environmentalists and more to explore the many ways Bali’s ‘restart’ paves the way for a better, brighter future.
Read Now

Melia Bali

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