A decline in the ‘quality of tourists’ visiting the Indonesian island of Bali has prompted authorities to re-evaluate their current tourist policies around temples.
In 2017, a photo of a Danish tourist went viral after she was seen sitting on top of the Linggih Padmasan shrine at the temple of Puhur Luhur Batukaru. The throne-shaped temple, according to authorities, is reserved for the most important deity, the supreme God, in Balinese Hinduism. The act by the tourist was seen as highly offensive to the faith.
After the photo went viral, the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council approached the police, asking them to track down the tourist and investigate the matter. Indonesia has strict blasphemy laws and new rules surrounding temple visits could improve the ‘quality’ of the tourists the island receives.
Tourists clambering over sacred temples are not the only problems the Balinese are trying to combat either. An influx of bikini-clad western tourists to the many hundreds of temples is being seen as disrespectful by locals. A tourist came under fire in past years, too, for wearing a bikini in front of a temple while carrying out a fitness pose for a photograph.
Over five million tourists visited Bali in 2017, with an increase of around two million expected by the end of the holiday season in 2019. While tourists are an integral part of the Bali economy, the Bali Deputy Governor, Tjokorda Oka Artha Sukawati (or Cok Ace), believes the ‘open’ policy with tourist may be contributing to the disrespectful behaviour.
Cok Ace said that due to the welcoming disposition of Bali as an island, “too many” tourists visit, with the quality of those tourists far different than ever before. He also believes the more recent influxes of visitors were having a negative impact on the island.
While no rules or regulations are in place yet, the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council may look at imposing tour guide rules around temples. That would mean that visitors to Bali could only tour the sites if accompanied and supervised by local guides.
Bali is well known for its breathtaking Hindu temples, many of which date back to the 11th century. For this reason, it’s known as the Island of a Thousand Puras.
However, it’s also a popular hotspot for both international and domestic visitors, meaning local authorities have to strike a happy balance between economic benefits and religious respect.
Bali Visitors at a Glance
International tourist numbers have been increasing year on year. In 2014, over 3.2 million international visitors came to Bali. By 2017, that number had risen to over 5.6 million.
The majority of tourists are arriving from China, but Australians and other Asian nationalities are also increasing yearly. Alongside Chinese and Australian visitors, there are also significant numbers coming from Japan, India, and Britain.