Bali - mass tourism in developing countries

Essay, 2003

32 Pages, Grade: Good


Table of content:







„The areas of Southeast Asia that are quiet, peaceful and possess spectacular scenery and diverse cultures have a great opportunity to develop tourism.” (President Suharto, launching Visit Asian Year, January, 1992) (McCarthy, 1994, p.7)

To be in a paradise which is exotic, strange, with amazing landscapes and people who are not affected by corrupted society, is the main reason for tourists to visit foreign countries. However, the questions is, if increasing tourism would be an advantage or a disadvantage for the potential host country, and how tourism affects the economy, society, the and the local environment. International tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the global economy and represents profitability for the visiting country and positively impacts the economy. The question is, whether the economic advantage compensates the damage, which is inflicted to the society, environment and the culture by the tourists.

This essay focuses on the case example of Bali and its mass tourism.


In order to describe the tourism in developing countries, it is necessary to clarify, which countries hold this status, which characteristics they possess and what is meant by the term "development".

The term "developing country" was formed at the beginning of the 1950’s. It stands for a group of countries, whose level of development is small compared with the developed nations. The criteria for the developing countries would be: economical, ecological, demographic, socio-cultural and political status.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) divides the developing countries into the following categories:

1. LICs (Low Income Countries, per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product) < $760),
2. LMICs (Lower Middle Income Countries, per capita GDP $761-$3,030),
3. UMICs (Upper Middle Income Countries, per capita GDP $3,031-$9,360)
4. HICs (High Income Countries, per capita GDP > $9,360) (OECD, 2000, Homepage, Attachment 1)

Indonesia belongs, according to the "world development report” of the World Bank, to a per capita GDP of $710 country (conditions 2002) which is part of the category of a developing country with a low income. (World Bank Group, 2003b, Homepage, Attachment 2)

Altogether Indonesia consists of 13,000 islands, from which 6,000 are uninhabited and which extend to over 5,150 km. The total area of Indonesia is over 1,900,000 km². Bali covers only 0.3% of this stated surface. (Lonely Planet, 1997, p.31) The official language is Bahasa Indonesia, whereby each ethnical group has its own language. Altogether this accounts to approximately 200 different languages. Due to the ideal of Indonesia between the Indian and the Pacific ocean, many different cultural, religious, political and economic influences can be found on the islands. Thus European colonialists, Arab and Indian sea traders, as well as members of the Chinese kingdoms have left their mark in Indonesia. Indian trades people have spread the Buddhism and Hinduism religion. Starting from the 13th century A.D. the Islamic influence increased by Arab dealers. Today 88% of the Indonesian population are Muslims, 8% Christians, 2% Hindus and 1% Buddhist. (Federal Foreign Office, 2003, Homepage). The European influence resulted particularly from the Dutchmen, who came to Indonesia in 1596 supervised by Cornelius de Houtman. First they captured the power and made it part of United India Company (VOC). In 1799 the VOC was replaced by the Netherlands state. (Lonely Planet, 1997, pp.18-22) In 1830 the systematic exploitation of Indonesia began under the control of Netherlands governor general Johannes van de Bosch. He introduced the "Cultuurstelstel system", (Lonely Planet, 1997, p.22) that improved the land use and the taxation system. Simultaneously, a massive population growth began in Java. People needed more workers, in order to meet the demands of colonial power. After the take-over of Indonesia by the Japanese, Soekarno and Hatta proclaimed the Republic of Indonesian at the 17.08.1945. (Lonely Planet, 1997, pp. 22-26)

In 1966 Soeherto took over the leadership of Indonesia. Soeherto’s most important legacy was political and economic stability. This appears to be when the modernization theory was realized. The Indonesian Government began to strive to promote the economy. They reached a rapid economic growth in Indonesia in the 1980‘s. (Lonely Planet, 1997, p.30)

At the end of the 1960’s they began to promote Bali as the island for international tourism. Therefore they consulted French tourism experts, in order to develop a master plan. In 1971 “The Master Plan for the Development of tourism in Bali “ was terminated. (Picard, 1993, p.79) The United Nation Development Program (UNDP) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development promoted this plan. (McCarthy, 1994, p.14). When in 1963 the first multilevel hotel was built and at the 01.08.1969 the large international airport was opened, the final way to the mass tourism was smoothed. Picard indicates that in 1969 11,000 tourists came directly to Bali, 120,000 in 1979 and 436,000 in 1989. (Wall, 1995, p.60) Statistics of BPS for Statistics Indonesia show, that 2,322,155 tourists came to Bali in 2001. With the entire number of visitors in Indonesia of 4,648,687 foreign tourists, approximately 50% the Tourists spend their vacation in Bali. (BPS Statistics Indonesia, 2003, Homepage, Attachment 3/4).

Without the promotion of the tourism on Bali by the government, the island probably would not have been to adjust so fast and so comprehensively to the tourism. Above all economic growth was the most important point of view.

Already in the modernization theory economists asked, why development was equated mostly with economic growth (Köhler, 2000, Homepage). Among the scientists an agreement based on the fact that underdevelopment was an early stage of each social development. It is a temporary condition of a traditionally shaped society. The modernization process should transfer the underdeveloped societies into a dynamic process of modern values, way of thinking, behaviours and social structures. According to this process, these societies would be penetrated by modern influences and unfold to a modern industrialised society and approximate to the societies of the west.

The next question is the travel motive of the guests. What are the characteristics of Bali and what attracts the travellers? On the one hand the natural-space potential of the island plays a large role. Apart from the scenic characteristics also the culture, the religion and their customs attract the travellers. Terms arose like "Garden of Eden" or "Last Paradise", which was established by early travellers into the 1930’s. (Picard, 1993, p.77) Bali is often called "living museum". (Picard, 1993, pp.74-77) „Thus is that culture - in the case in point, mostly narrowed down to artistic and ceremonial manifestations - became Bali’s defining feature, providing the common ground on which Dutch orientalists and American anthropologists, artists and tourists could encounter each other and the Balinese.“ (Picard, 1993, p.76)

With the rising number of visitors the “Last Paradise” Bali was threatened to become the "Paradise Lost". (Picard, 1993, p.77) On the one hand Bali had become a "living museum" to promote the tourism on the island. On the other hand the Balinese culture needs to be protected and a possibility should be found to protect the culture against the influences of the modern world brought to the island by the presence of the foreign visitors. (Picard, 1993, p.77)


The Indonesian government recognized Balinese culture, considering history, as a valuable resource for the economic development of the island. How this resolution could lead to "Cultural Renaissance" of the Balinese culture (Picard, 1993, p.87) or to the "Balinisation of Bali" (Picard, 1993, p.75) will be discussed in the following.

Apart from traditional Balinese music, painting and carving art, the traditionally accomplished dances are the most spectacular characteristic of the island. These dances are however not exclusively intended for the public, but also serve religious purposes, „because present among the spectators are the ancestors, the gods and the demons, who share with the Balinese a keen taste for lively festivals and fine performances“. (Picard, 1995, p.58)

The Balinese government went even so far to say, that the island inhabitants have to behave as authentically Balinese as possible, since authenticity is exactly that what potential tourists search. Thus the term "Balinization of Bali" developed, and the condition that the culture is not regarded as a "Heritage" any more, but as the "Capital". (Picard, 1995, p.55)

How can tourism develop without "cultural pollution" (Picard, 1993, p.87)? How can the tourist enjoy the Balinese culture on the one hand without menace it on the other hand?

Negative effects can be determined on the inhabitants of the island. Before the mass tourism began, it was not important for the Balinese whether the dances were seen for religious purposes or as a spectacle. When the dances were performed in hotels to additionally increase the tourism, it became necessary to decide, where religious ceremony stopped and where the commercial attraction began. The Balinese created new dances, shortened and changed them, in order to improve the entertainment character.

(McCarthy, 1994, p.45) An example is the choreographically very impressive Kecak dance. This dance was invented for a film project and is today presented as traditional dance. The irony is that the Balinese became proud of these dances. (Lonely Planet, 1997, p.376)

Further effects can be found on the nature of the island. Natural areas are destroyed by the building of hotels, holiday settlements, business areas and roads. Since these natural areas are also used as ritual places, the island inhabitants are disturbed in their spirituality. Further the clothing of the tourists during their visit of the holy temples did not correspond with the religious conceptions of the inhabitants. However, a dress code has meanwhile been introduced. Even under ecological criterias the mass tourism is irresponsible. Many hotels in the middle of the rice fields block the irrigation system functioning so far. The immense water consumption for the apartments or pools reduces the water reservoir for the population. In addition the disposal of the waste water is completely unsettled.


The perhaps worst effect of the mass tourism could be an AIDS epidemic disease.

In Indonesia the condition between tradition and modernity, between arising Islamic fundamentalism and western orientation brings many economic, socio- cultural and political-religious problems. The increase of the commercial Sex industry, the associated high number of STDs (sexual transmitted diseases) and the high number of unemployed persons are essentially responsible for the rapid HIV spreading. At present Indonesia has announced 380 cases of HIV infections. The dark number is indicated at 90.000-300.000. (Dreezens-Fuhrke, 1997, p.4)

In a men dominated economy and society women consider to find their survive in prostitution. In the Islamic Indonesian society prostitutes are, however, not considered victims. Rather they are considered as "women without moral" with morally despicable social reputation. (Dreezens-Fuhrke, 1997, p.23)

Already in 1989 started the first NGO (Non governmental organizations associated with the United nation) an HIV/AIDS prevention program in Bali, the place of origin of the HIV/Aids. Until today female prostitutes beside male prostitutes and homosexuals are focussed by the NGOs in Southeast Asia. (Dreezens-Fuhrke, 1997, pp.21-24) The Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB) contribute AUD 20 million in HIV/AIDS- prevention in Indonesia (McCarthy, 1994, p.21)


“The architect of the Bali bombing has revealed that they originally targeted the Sari Club on the previous night, Friday October 11, when the popular nightspot was filled with AFL footballers celebrating the end of the season (…). The blasts killed 202 people, including 88 Australians and 38 Balinese. Unofficial estimates in Bali put the death toll as high as 250, when vagrants and street prostitutes are included. Hundreds were injured.” (Miller, 2003, Homepage)

The result of growth in 2002 was a pleasant surprise in Indonesia. (World Bank Group, 2003b, Homepage). The feared negative effect of the Bali attack was not perceptible on the total growth. The GDP growth with 3.7 per cent for the year 2002 was better than expected. (World bank Group, 2003b, homepage) Nevertheless the Balinese hotel sector was strongly affected by the effects of the attack. The number of visitors declined by 31 per cent. (World Bank Group, 2003a, Homepage, Attachment 5). Domestic tourists replace partially the dropping foreign tourism. It is probably because of the fact that Indonesia could not recover from the Asia crisis in 1997/98 and the effects were limited therefore.


Since the Second World War the governments of Indonesia try to strengthen their economic situation. Above all the "Master Plan for the Development of Tourism in Bali" (1971) helped Indonesia to win many tourists in Bali and hence to increase the national income. They tried to receive the status of Middle Income country. According to the Modernization Theory of Rostow the Indonesian government tried to achieve a transition from the Traditional Society to the second step, the “Establishment of the preconditions for take-off”. The next step in Rostows Theory is the transition to the “Take- off society”, afterwards the “Drive to Maturity” to the final step: “The Age of High Mass Consumption”. The success in this concept rests probably on the fact that it integrated a variety of other factors, such as cultural and technical prerequisites. The problem at this concept was the insufficient explanation for long-term underdevelopment, the neglected external factors and historical influences. In this theory there is also a shortage of a process analysis, how these five ideally steps finally can be reached. (Köhler, 2000, homepage) Indonesia still belongs to the status of a traditional society with a GNP by capita from $710. (World Bank Group, 2003b, Homepage) One of the neglected factors is the high number of illiterate people and consequently the lack of experts.

Worldwide there is a range of humanitarian assistance for Indonesia. The Asian development bank (ADB) named some development activities in its statistical appendix. Some projects are: Agriculture and Rural Development Sector Program, Education Development, Local Roads Development or Waste Management and Environmental Protection for Urban Poor Communities. They are promoted beside the ADB by the World Bank, CIDA, GTZ, USAID or JBIC. (ADB, 2002, Homepage, Attachment 6)

The net transfer of resources amounted in the year 1999 to $106 million, during the Asia crisis 1998 and 1999 to an average $631 million and until 2001 to approximately $40 million. (ADB, 2002, Homepage, Attachment 7) Between 1996 and 2001 development assistance was carried out within the ranges Agriculture and Natural Resources, Social Infrastructure, Transport and Communication. (ADB, 2002, Homepage, Attachment 8) In the future the ADB plan "Assistance pipeline for Lending Products 2003-2005" will promote Financial Governance and Social Security Reform, Road Rehabilitation, Integrated Urban Development and Poverty Reduction, Education Development und Commercialisation of Public. (ADB, 2002, Homepage, Attachment 9)

The inhabitants try to overcome the rising catastrophic situation within social and ecological ranges. Ida Ayu Agung Mas, who lived abroad and returned to Bali after 20 years, created the Sua Bali concept. "Sua Bali" means "Meet Bali, understand Bali". (BBC World News, 2003, homepage) The aim of Sua Bali is to keep the negative effects as small as possible for the environment and the culture. Therefore courses are offered to inform tourists about the culture, traditions and the everyday life of the island inhabitants. Foreign visitors get the possibility to participate in their way of life. An increasing interest among the Bali travellers can be determined, although a lot of tourists still demand a completely western standard in their vacation. Nevertheless this should be a guide for the future. (Heinen, 1999, Homepage)


Bali lives between prosperity and poverty. Tourists come annually nearly in the same number as inhabitants live on the island. They bring currency and contribute to a large extent to the economic growth. In addition, regarding the economic effects, it must be pointed out, that only certain persons, who have the appropriate conditions and knowledge, such as hotel managers, share the profit. Nevertheless the increasing tourism gives the Balinese inhabitants the possibility to earn money in order to secure their surviving. Of course this point leads also to problems like prostitution, which are tried to be solved by development assistance. Not only the Balinese try to overcome the poverty but also their government. The tourism development politic helps Bali to increase their growth substantially. The aim seems to be the next step in Restow’s Modernisation Theory - to become an “Establishment of the preconditions for take-off”.

The culture tourism on Bali represents an exceptional case in the developing countries. It becomes clear, where the problems of the island are. The dilemma between economic prosperity and the entrance of tourists in Balinese life and culture belong inseparably together. Nevertheless the culture of Bali is neither "polluted" nor renaissance. The Balinese culture is still alive, although a bid modified. The end of the tourism is not in sight, as many statistics show. The Bali tourism is not destroyed, only dammed. Some of the reasons of the stagnation could be the Asia crisis 1997/98, the attack of 11. September or the SARS epidemic.

As German writer Theodor Fontane already said to end 19 of the century:

"To the peculiarity in our times belong the mass journeys. Previous only preferred individuals travelled, now every man and women travel." (Theodor Fontane, 1873)


Excerpt out of 32 pages


Bali - mass tourism in developing countries
La Trobe University Melbourne  (Sociology)
Development, Globalisation and Culture
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Bali, Development, Globalisation, Culture
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Olesja Büchner (Author), 2003, Bali - mass tourism in developing countries, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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