Bali has been billed as one of the world’s top spiritual tourism destinations, but its potential has yet to be fully tapped, a seminar heard Saturday.
Wayan Wijayasa, an industry observer from the Denpasar Tourism Academy, said the fact was, spiritual tourism was already blooming in Bali.
“A simple example is the fact there are more and more hotels offering yoga classes. More and more tourists are coming to Bali to deepen their spirituality, although we do not have the detailed figures yet,” he said.
Wijayasa, who has a master’s degree in tourism focusing on yoga, was speaking at the seminar being held at the Ashram Gandhi Puri Sevagram in Klungkung. The seminar was part of the ongoing International Bali-India Yoga Festival, which runs until Tuesday.
He said the untapped potential to develop such tourism came mainly from Western countries, whose citizens were keen to learn Eastern philosophy, especially yoga. Citing from a study conducted by US researcher Hodge, he said there were 16.5 million adults in the United States alone who practiced yoga.
“If only 1 percent of that figure visited Bali for spiritual tourism, then there would be at least 160,000 yoga tourists to Bali in a year,” Wijayasa said.
The study also found Americans spent a total of US$2.95 billion on buying yoga equipment, including mattresses, and classes.
“If Bali was more creative, we could become the main supplier for such equipment,” Wijayasa said.
Based on his own study in 2007, Wijayasa found there were 14 hotels in Ubud, Bangli regency, that offered yoga classes.
Wijayasa was upbeat that Bali could benefit greatly from spiritual tourism, especially considering the island also boasted beautiful natural scenery such as beaches and mountains, thus adding to the strong spiritual vibrations.
Also speaking at the seminar was Ketut Narya, head of research and development at the Bali Tourism Agency, and Indra Udayana, head of the Ashram Gandhi Puri Sevagram.
Despite the huge potential, Narya admitted the provincial administration had yet to draw up a clear concept on how to develop spiritual tourism in the island province.
“The development of spiritual tourism has been done by practitioners, while the provincial administration has yet to devise a development concept,” he said.
“Nevertheless, the administration strongly supports efforts to develop spiritual tourism in Bali.”
“We will soon devise a concept to develop spiritual tourism as a way to enhance, enrich and broaden the tourism products we already have.”
Narya added spiritual tourism was in line with the cultural tourism concept, regulated under Bylaw No. 3/1991 on Cultural Tourism.
“We are also expecting spiritual tourism to help extend visitors’ length of stay, which in turn will bring higher spending,” he said.
The agency recorded that in 2008, the average length of stay in Bali was 10.6 days.
Indra added there was such a high potential for spiritual tourism here, and cited his own facility. Ashram Gandhi Puri Sevagram has five bedrooms, with visitors staying an average of two weeks.