Bali set to impose US$10 levy on foreign tourists to help save the environment

Tourists pose for photographs on Kuta beach on the island of Bali on Jan 4, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

DENPASAR (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Bali is set to impose a US$10 (S$13.60) levy on foreign tourists that will go towards environment and cultural preservation.

The Bali administration has drafted a bylaw on the levy, which it has been discussing with lawmakers since December.

Bali Governor Wayan Koster said the revenue from the tourist tax would be used to fund programmes on preserving the environment and Balinese culture.

"This will give us better fiscal space to support the development of Bali," Koster said at the Bali Legislative Council building.

A renowned tourist destination, Bali welcomed 5.7 million foreign tourists in 2017, most of whom came from China and Australia. The number was expected to have topped 6 million in 2018, when the island province hosted international events such as the Annual Meetings of the IMF-World Bank.

The province has been battling against the growing volume of plastic waste on its beaches and in its waters. Some 3,800 tonnes of waste are produced in Bali every day, of which only 60 per cent end up in landfills.

Plastic waste became so unbearable that the island's administration last year banned single-use plastics including shopping bags, styrofoam, and straws.

It is hoped that the ban will slash the amount of plastic polluting Bali's marine environment by 70 per cent within a year.

Koster said he is optimistic that the tax would not discourage tourists from visiting the island.

"Tourists will understand (the regulation). They will be happy to pay it as it will be used to strengthen our environment and culture," he said.

Bali is not the only tourist destination to have imposed a tax on travellers. Japan this month began collecting a departure tax of 1,000 yen (S$12.40) on visitors to fund its tourism infrastructure.

Koster said Bali's levy will be imposed only on foreign tourists, not domestic tourists.

"Most foreigners come to Bali for a holiday, local tourists only come to visit their family, have meetings or for their institution's events," he said, adding that the subject of the levy was still under discussion.

The Bali legislature is deliberating how the tax will be collected. The council and the administration are considering whether the levy should be included in the airline ticket or collected at special counters at the airport. The first option is seen as more feasible with the help of airlines.

Meanwhile, local leaders have expressed support for the levy.

"Contributions from tourists are needed to help us preserve our environment and culture. Tourists come to enjoy our environment and culture. Why not contribute to preserving it?" said Bali Legislative Council Speaker I Nyoman Adi Wiryatama of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

Ida Bagus Purwa Sidemen, the executive director of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association, said the group was not worried that the levy would deter tourists.

"As long as the levy is used for preserving environment and culture, I think it would not cause a decline in tourist numbers. However, if there is no real programme following the implementation of the bylaw, tourists may feel disappointed and it would lead to a decrease in tourist arrivals," he added.

Chairman of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies Bali chapter Ketut Ardana also warmly welcomed the plan, saying that it would not discourage tourists from visiting Bali.

"Actually, it has been discussed in Bali for a long time. If it could be implemented now, that would be really good," Ardana said.

Ardana said US$10 is not a large amount of money for tourists. "Other countries also charge foreign tourists. I think US$10 won't affect them. If we visit Dubai, we have to pay US$11 per person," he added.

Tourism expert from Udayana University Ida Bagus Puja Astawa also support the initiative.

He said a study in 2015 found that 60 per cent of foreign tourists were willing to pay for the conservation of nature and culture.

"Most foreign tourists think it is necessary to preserve nature," Puja said.

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