Bali ought use Covid-19 downtime to rethink sustainability: experts

The Covid-19 pandemic which has brought travel businesses to a halt is an opportune time for Bali to reset its policy on responsible and sustainable tourism, according to experts.

Speaking at the seventh session of the Road Map to Bali’s Next Normal on sustainable tourism last week, David Ermen, managing director of Destination Capacity New Zealand, expressed hopes that tourism stakeholders would use the pandemic downtime to redesign Bali as a more sustainable destination, instead of putting environmental and social commitments on the backburner to get the economy back on track.

Tourism players in Bali should use Covid-19 downtime to integrate sustainability into their business continuity plans that will reap benefits for the local people, say experts; Samsara Living Museum in Bali showcasing the traditional way of life pictured

The pandemic, in a way, has brought benefits to the environment as the cut back in tourism activities has resulted in clearer air, cleaner beaches and reduced waste.

“When tourism develops in a location and foreign tourists come back, locals would be very happy because (travellers) are bringing income to the community. As the number increases and gets back to the previous level, perhaps some irritations will come back because the traffic will rise and there will be more waste again and other issues that we had before,” Ermen said.

Agreeing, Ary Suhandi, founder of the Indonesian Ecotourism Network, said that to reset Bali was feasible, especially during its initial reopening when tourist footfall would be low, as virus fears linger.

The less crowded Bali, he said, is the best setting for the local government to formulate a better strategy to balance the island’s development with sustainability.

I Gede Ardika, former minister of culture and tourism and member of UNWTO-World Committee on Tourism Ethics, reminded Bali stakeholders that the principle of the development of sustainable tourism is prosperity, planet and people, with people the key. Communities in the traditional villages in Bali should become the leading players in the development.

He called on the regional government alongside all stakeholders to draw up a detailed Bali Tourism Development Plan in order to actualise the island as a responsible and sustainable tourism destination.

As for tourism businesses in Bali, he said they need a paradigm shift from interpreneurship which focuses mainly on economy to sociopreneurship by integrating and involving local communities in the development of tourism.

He added: “On the other hand, the traditional community should also get ready to become the leading players to create a responsible and sustainable tourism destination.”

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