For 70-year-old Kenzo Otake, a retiree from Osaka, Bali has always been his second home and a perfect holiday sanctuary.
In April 2011, he was supposed to be on a luxury liner on its way to the island to spend spring vacation in Bali. But he never reached the island, as Japan was hit hard by a disastrous earthquake and tsunami in March. “Now, I am here with all of my friends. I really missed watching the kecak dance and other Balinese traditional performing arts,” said Kenzo, with a bright smile on his wrinkled face.
“This is my 10th visit to Bali and I always want to come here whenever possible,” he grinned. Kenzo was heading to a special retirement village for elderly Japanese tourists developed in Tabanan regency.
Kenzo, a former urban planner, is among thousands of elderly Japanese tourists who keep noting Bali in their annual holiday diary. Not to mention the 2,000 other senior tourists who come every year to stay for long periods in Bali.
Australian Martin Jones, previously an investment banker, is 69. He is another visitor who fell hard for Bali. With his wife, Leslie, Martin visits the island almost every year and the couple has the strong intention to spend their retirement in Ubud village.
To tap into this huge untapped market, the provincial administration will work with the Bali Retirement Tourism Authority (BRTA) to prepare and develop several villages in Bali as holiday and residential sites for senior visitors.
Several retirement villages will be developed in Kintamani resort area in Bangli regency, Pancasari near Bedugul and Gerokgak in Buleleng regency, Tulamben in Karangasem regency and Perancak in Jembrana regency.
Bali welcomed 2.89 million foreign visitors in 2011, many of whom were retirees from Japan, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Australia, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore.
Ida Bagus Made Parwata, head of the Bali Investment Agency, said that a number of potential investors from Abu Dhabi had shown their interest in putting money into the development of tourist facilities in Bali for older tourists.
In addition to physical facilities, the administration also plans to ease travel requirements and documentation, as well as the legalities to lease or buy properties in Bali.
Meanwhile, head of the Research Center on Tourism and Culture at Bali’s Udayana University, Agung Suryawan Wiranatha, has frequently warned the government to adopt a more serious approach to “grey” tourism, given the strong potential this market holds for Bali.
Suryawan shared his vision for “grey” tourism, saying current immigration rules permitted tourists to stay in Bali for up to six months. These people could stay in villas and employ drivers, nurses and housemaids.
Suryawan pointed to other countries that are adopting serious plans to garner a share of the senior citizen market. Thailand, for instance, has been developing this market for the past five years.
The Bali-based tourism academic estimates the average spend of the grey market is US$75-100 per day. “Their spending levels may be less than many tourists, but if viewed from the length of stay, which is quite long, the benefit to Bali is much larger,” Suryawan said.
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