The Indonesian paradisiacal province of Bali, the so-called “Island of Gods,” is tired of being plagued by nuisance foreigners. It wants tourists, of course. They bolster its economy. It just doesn’t want its reputation that’s attracted so many over the years to be ruined by tourists.
From a German woman stripping at a temple in Ubud town to an American man defacing a Balinese police car, the problem of unruly guests has become so bad that provincial governor Wayan Koster ordered last month to attach a list of almost obvious dos and don’ts onto tourist passports. The local government has deported at least 136 foreigners so far this year, as of June 9, for various acts of misconduct.
But cracking down on bad behavior isn’t enough. On Wednesday, Koster told Balinese lawmakers that all international tourists will be charged a tax—about $10 per person—starting from next year, with the money to be used to preserve the province’s culture and environment.
Bali’s tourism has rebounded since the pandemic, with 439,475 tourists recorded as of May—almost four times the size since it first reopened for foreign travel in 2022. But with reopening came a renewed wave of social taboos committed by visitors, ranging from fights with local authorities to public sex. Many foreigners have also routinely disregarded local traffic laws, which compelled the government to announce in March a ban on tourists riding motorbikes.
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Frustrations have been simmering over a general lack of respect shown by outsiders toward locals and their customs. Earlier this year, a group of 17 tourists at a homestay lodged a complaint against their neighbors over crowing roosters. In response, Koster said, “They don’t have to come to Bali. We have no business dealing with such people.”
Imposing a tax on Bali’s foreign visitors was first raised in 2019, amid damages brought by overtourism before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And there’s precedent elsewhere: at the start of the year, Malaysia asked hotels to resume charging a 10 ringgit ($2) per night tourist tax, and last year Bhutan imposed a fee of $200 a night for visitors’ stays in the country—with officials defending the tax for the stress tourism has put on the country’s infrastructure.
Bali’s impending tourist tax—which will be charged electronically—has raised concern among some businesses that worry it may deter foreigners, but Koster dismissed this, saying the relatively small charge will not be a problem for the province’s tourism figures. “We will use it for the environment, culture and we will build better quality infrastructure,” he told Agence France-Presse, “so traveling to Bali will be more comfortable and safe.”
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