Jakarta – Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Wishnutama has asserted that he has no plans to make Bali and Lake Toba in North Sumatra more Muslim-friendly destinations, rebuking circulating media reports that suggested he would do so in two of Indonesia's favorite tourist sites.
"We always believe we have to maintain and manage local culture, natural and cultural heritage so that Indonesia will always attract tourists and bring prosperity to the public," Wishnutama said in a statement as quoted by tribunnews.com.
He said the ministry was committed to developing the resort island of Bali and Lake Toba in accordance with the local culture.
Wishnutama's statement came on the heels of media reports suggesting that he had said the ministry would make changes in the two tourist destinations – which were not Muslim-majority regions – to accommodate more Muslim tourists.
One of the reports was published by sindonews.com, with the title 'Wishnutama and Angela will change Toba and Bali to be Muslim tourist-friendly'.
Angela referred to Deputy Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Angela Herliani Tanoesoedibjo.
The link to the report recently went viral and elicited conversations on social media, however, as of Wednesday afternoon, the report was no longer accessible via the link.
Wishnutama rebuked the report, saying that public perception of the news contradicted the stance and the commitment of the ministry.
Not only did the media reports stir controversy among social media users, they also ignited responses from prominent figures in Bali and Toba, who argued that they did not agree with Wishnutama's plan to make the destinations more Muslim-friendly as referred to in the reports.
In a statement made available to The Jakarta Post, Bali deputy governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati said Bali's tourism should remain the way it was.
"Bali practices its tourism based on local wisdom that is heavily influenced by Hinduism with the 'Tri Hita Kirana' philosophy or the balance between human and human, human and nature, and human and God," Tjokorda said.
He said Bali's tourism was based on the principles of diversity, namely welcoming everyone regardless of their background.
Tjokorda also mentioned the visit of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia in 2017, saying that King Salman really enjoyed his holiday on the Hindu-majority island and even extended his stay without any complaints.
"Therefore, it is not appropriate to suggest that Bali is not friendly for Muslims," he said, "Bali's tourism should not be disturbed as it has been going on very well in the hands of local developers." (gis)