European travelers may be starting to view Bali, especially the southern part of the island, as a less attractive holiday destination as accommodation prices soar uncontrollably.
Putu Winastra, deputy chairman of the Bali branch of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies ( ASITA ) said that European tourists had always paid serious attention to the condition of destinations they intended to visit.
“In the last five years, many European visitors have lodged complaints over the worsening environmental condition of Bali — lingering traffic jams, garbage, as well as the rising cost of hotels and accommodation facilities here,”
Bali, he said, must now face stiff competition from new emerging holiday destinations in neighboring countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, all of which are rich in natural assets.
“Members of ASITA have found it quite difficult to win back trust from our European clients as they prefer to go to more ‘nature-based’ places in those countries,” he said.
Bali has been growing very fast and is considered too crowded and uncomfortable as a holiday destination for many visitors.
Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are geographically close to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
When European visitors come to Bali, they prefer to spend their holidays in quieter places, like Pemuteran Bay in Buleleng, Munduk village, Amed and Sidemen in Karangasem and in Bangli regency.
“French tourists have always avoided staying in the busy and noisy Kuta area. They will stay at hotels in Kuta when they have to catch a night or morning flight at Ngurah Rai International Airport,” added Winastra, who focuses on the European market.
Winastra said his partners in France had frequently warned him to provide tour packages that suited the demands of French visitors.
Currently, there are no direct flight services connecting Bali with Paris and other cities in Europe.
“It has been very tough for us to promote Bali, whose beauty is fading, to European tourists. The distance factor and limited airline services are among the crucial obstacles for many travel agencies to attract European guests
European visitors tend to stay from 10 to 14 days per visit, spending around US$3,000 per person.
Agung Prana, owner of travel agencies and accommodation focusing on the European market, was quite surprised when he realized that more and more tourists from Europe had left Bali for other destinations.
“One of my hotels in Pemuteran Bay in Buleleng, north Bali, used to be fully booked during the Christmas and New Year holidays. But last holiday season our occupancy rates stood at only 40 to 50 percent until the middle of January this year,” said Prana.