While it's no secret that tourism plays a huge role in Bali's economy, an expert from the Udayana University says the pandemic is a lesson for the hugely popular holiday destination to grow out of its dependence on foreign tourists.
"It's time Bali stopped deifying foreign tourists, in the future after the pandemic it will be difficult to attract tourists because tourism competition will be even tighter between countries," Nyoman Sukma Arida, a Tourism Faculty lecturer at the Udayana University, said during a virtual discussion.
Sukma said tourism players in the Indonesian province ought to focus on attracting domestic tourists, and to stop discriminating against them.
"We've observed how Bali differentiates treatment between foreign and domestic tourists. But this doesn't happen in other regions like Yogyakarta and Malang, where both tourists are treated equally," Sukma said.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing people's traveling patterns, with staycations rising in popularity in the past year. According to Sukma, Bali must tap into this potential in order to support the local tourism industry, such as by developing tourism villages, as people will move away from choosing potentially crowded destinations.
"Before the pandemic, Bali leaned towards mass tourism, but in the future this will change. Bali must adjust," Sukma said.
Some 6.2 million foreign travelers visited Bali in 2019, with Australian and Chinese tourists making up more than half of that total. The island hit a decade low last year due to the coronavirus outbreak, with the number of foreign tourist arrivals plummeting to around 1 million.
In terms of numbers, Indonesian tourists still make up the majority of visitors for the island by a large margin: over 10.5 million Indonesian tourists visited Bali in 2019, while about 4.5 million traveled to the province in 2020.