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Less than half of daily foreign visitors to Bali pay newly imposed tourist tax

Straits Times - May 3, 2024

jakarta – Less than half of inbound tourists to Indonesia's resort island of Bali have paid a new tourist tax of 150,000 rupiah (S$12.60) imposed since Feb 14, its tourism agency said.

Experts have attributed the lack of compliance with the new levy to insufficient checks and coordination among the authorities.

Bali hopes to reap 250 billion rupiah from the levy in 2024, which it intends to use on the preservation of Bali's nature and culture, including for cleaning up its beaches.

Tourism – which is the province's main source of income – has created a wide range of problems for the authorities and locals who struggle with issues such as waste management and misbehaving tourists, experts say.

The volume of waste generated, for instance, has amounted to over 700,000 tonnes each year since 2019.

Currently, foreign visitors can pay the tax online via the Love Bali website or mobile phone app using bank transfer, a virtual account or QRIS payment even before their arrival in Bali.

They can also make payment in person at counters set up at the I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport or seaports. After making payment, they will receive a voucher sent by e-mail, which they can use as proof of payment.

But in the first two months of its implementation, only about 7,000 to 8,000 people out of 15,000 foreign visitors arriving in Bali daily had paid the tax, said Bali tourism agency's marketing chief Ida Ayu Indah Yustikarini.

"Many foreign tourists don't know about this tax," she told The Straits Times.

"This is something completely new and applies only in Bali. We don't have such a tax at the national level. So it's quite challenging."

Right now, Bali tourism officers carry out daily random checks at the main island airport, as well as top tourism spots such as the Uluwatu temple, Ms Indah said.

The agency also continues to disseminate information about the new tax, and works with various stakeholders, such as the Foreign Ministry and airlines, in hopes that more will comply with the new levy.

Meanwhile, several foreign visitors to Bali in the last two months told ST that they did not undergo any checks over the tax upon their arrival at the airport.

Australian visitor Anne Oleary, who spent 10 days in Bali in March to April, said that she heard about the new tax from her friend, who then advised her to make the payment online in advance.

"I paid through the Love Bali website before I went on my holiday. I had no issue with paying, it's not a large sum in the overall consideration of planning a holiday... I love Bali and if the tax is a help to the province, I am very happy to pay it," the 73-year-old retiree told ST.

"Nobody checked but it didn't bother me at all," she added.

Another Australian, Mr Enzo Dalessandro, who was visiting Bali with his wife, Ms Grace Dalessandro, said that he learnt about the levy from news, and thought that if they did not pay it, they could not enter Bali.

"If they use it to clean the beaches, to clean the streets, that's not a problem," he said, hoping the money will benefit the province.

Others, however, were not aware of the newly imposed tax, and had missed paying it.

"It should have a positive impact on Bali. For those who are able to pay for the flights to Bali, this tax is just a minor part of it. I don't think it should be a problem," said Singaporean tourist Abdillah Mcqueen, 39, who came to Bali in March.

He will make sure to pay the levy on his next visit, he said.

Bali welcomed 5.24 million foreign visitors, or 45 per cent of overall foreign visitors to Indonesia, in 2023.

It hopes to lure around seven million inbound visitors in 2024, half of the total visitors Indonesia hopes to garner.

Bali tourism expert Agung Suryawan Wiranatha said that Bali tourism relies on the inseparable blend of nature and culture, citing temples located at beaches or lakes as examples.

Over the years, he said, tourism has created various environmental impacts, such as mounting waste, surging pollution and overuse of groundwater, hence the importance for Bali to collect such a levy to mitigate these issues.

"If all these issues are left unaddressed and no efforts are taken to conserve the environment, tourism in Bali will no longer be interesting," he told ST, adding that the money would be useful to help promote recycling and composting to tackle the waste issue.

Dr Agung, who is the head of Udayana University's Centre of Excellence in Tourism, said that to ensure that these levies are collected, the authorities should set up a checkpoint before airport immigration desks where everyone will be required to show their proof of payment.

To ensure that the collected levy will be used properly, Dr Agung said there should be an independent supervising body, which also comprises non-governmental elements, such as customary leaders, to oversee how the funds are spent.

Some other countries in Asia apply similar tourism taxes.

Visitors leaving Japan must pay an international tourist departure tax of 1,000 yen (S$8.80). Malaysia, meanwhile, collects tourism tax through accommodation providers, charging tourists 10 ringgit (S$2.85) per room each night.

As the Bali tourist tax was only recently imposed, tourism officers will still be lenient to those who have not paid upon arrival, and allow them to pay during inspections, said Ms Indah.

Ms Indah expects that 100 per cent compliance rate will be achieved in the next two or three years as awareness of the tourist tax grows and visitors become accustomed to the notion that they are also in some way contributing to the conservation of Bali.

"The tourists come to Bali to enjoy its culture. It is good if they take part in helping the Balinese preserve their culture as, at the end, they could benefit from their contribution through our culture," she said.

Meanwhile, the Bali tourism agency has received some reports about tourists being tricked into making payments for this tourist levy on fake websites.

Ms Indah said that the authorities have asked Google to take these fake sites down, and she advises tourists to pay only through the official channels.

The foreign tourist levy is among the measures introduced to enhance tourism on the island, which is home to 4.3 million people, the majority of whom are Hindu.

And in recent years, the authorities have been trying to tackle the issues of over-tourism and misbehaving tourists.

In 2023, Bali authorities issued a list of restrictions after a series of incidents involving misbehaving foreign tourists.

These included a Russian influencer posing with his pants down around his ankles, a Russian woman posing naked on a 700-year-old holy tree, and a naked German woman interrupting a dance performance at a temple.

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/less-than-half-of-daily-foreign-visitors-to-bali-pay-newly-imposed-tourist-ta