The Jakarta Post
Several APEC delegates visited the Taman Ayun royal water temple in Badung and the Uma Abian village in Tabanan on Wednesday, where they learned that tourism could enhance cultural preservation and local people's livelihoods.
The visiting delegates, ' participants of the economic forum's High Level Dialogue on Travel Facilitation ' were greeted by representatives of the Mengwi royal family and the regency's officials in the temple, which is listed as one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.
A performance of the Sekar Jepun dance by five dancers, accompanied by a traditional Balinese gamelan ensemble, welcomed the delegates as they entered the yard of the temple, which was built in 1634 by the first king of Mengwi, Ida Tjokorda Sakti Blambangan.
While enjoying various traditional snacks served by the royal family, they listened to the history of the temple from an influential figure in the island's tourist business, Agung Prana.
'Today, the king's descendant, Anak Agung Gede Agung, happens to be the regent of Badung, but he still adheres to the centuries-old commitment to maintain and even enhance the subak system of paddy-field irrigation in this regency,' Prana told the delegates.
'The regent aspires to develop community-based tourism in Bali while maintaining local wisdom, and to achieve the best farming practices with the subak system.'
The Taman Ayun temple is a living monument that still serves its original purpose. Local people believe that Ida Tjokorda Sakti Blambangan had great powers that protected the people and their farming area from pests.
'The historic and spiritual ties that remain today, and the blend of social, religious, cultural and ecological roles practiced in this temple, were the reasons it was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site,' Prana said.
After visiting the temple, the APEC delegates went on to the Uma Abian village, where a sustainable community-based tourism concept is being developed.
'Being surrounded by rice fields and trickling water in the village's natural setting is the strong selling point for foreign visitors, where they can be part of the local people's daily activities, like farming, cooking and preparing religious offerings,' Prana said.
In this village, local people have been encouraged and facilitated to build one or more international-standard rooms in their backyards, close to their traditional village homes, which can be rented out to tourists. Some of them could then undertake the management and promotion of the rooms.
By empowering villagers in this way, their income from agricultural tourism is often higher than from their rice farming. It also allows them to continue farming while enjoying a higher income and living standards. In this way, the conversion of rice fields can be halted and best farming practices can be applied to the island's irreplaceable cultural landscape.
'This is the way we are implementing the UNESCO initiative, by showing how the tourist industry and local communities can work together profitably to preserve Bali's famous and unique village culture. We want to share this concept with other APEC economies as our best practices,' said Gde Pitana, head of tourist resources development at the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry.
He added that Indonesia was open to further cooperation with other APEC countries in this field.
Sombat Kuruphan, Thailand's tourism minister, said he was impressed by the example of how tourism could flourish alongside cultural and environmental preservation. He also said that his country was willing to learn best practices from Indonesia and build closer ties on tourism.
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