Saudi King’s Visit Big Boost to Bali’s Tourism

TOURISM operators and observers hailed the planned visit of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to Indonesia, especially his one-week vacation plan in the Indonesian tourist resort island of Bali.

King Salman and his entourage of about 1.5 thousand people, including 10 ministers and 25 princes, will arrive in Jakarta on Mach 1 for a state visit until March 3, and will then head to Bali for a vacation until March 9, 2017.

With about 1.5 thousand royal family members, ministers, and princes; and four Boeing B747s of 400 and 200 series, two Boeing B777, and two C-130 Hercules, the Saudi Kings visit is a big boost to Indonesia’s tourism, particularly Bali.

"Certainly, this visit will promote Balis tourism in the Middle East. The kings’ holiday in Bali would inspire not only others from Saudi but also businessmen from other Middle East countries to visit Bali," Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) Chairman for Bali Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati remarked in Denpasar, Bali.

Sukawati remarked that the king and his entourage from the oil-rich country will stay at numerous luxury hotels in Nusa Dua, Badung District. "This will serve as an opportunity for Bali to promote its tourism given the fact that so far the arrival of tourists from the Middle East countries is still insignificant.

According to Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, the number of Middle East visitors to Indonesia is still low, at under 200 thousand, or still lesser than 300 thousand and 600 thousand tourists visiting Malaysia and Thailand, respectively.

The kings planned visit to Bali is expected to boost national tourism. "If the king comes to Bali, then other people will visit too. This is a golden opportunity for Indonesia to promote tourism," the minister asserted in Bali on Thursday (Feb 23).

After all, travelers from the Middle East are premium-class tourists, with a high spending capacity of approximately US$2,000 in a single visit.

The profile and popularity of Bali are believed to rise sharply following the arrival of an influential global figure. King Salmans visit will be a historic moment for Indonesia, since the last visit of a Saudi King to the country was in 1970, or 47 years ago.

Tourism observer Ida Bagus Lolec Surakusuma meanwhile is of the view that the visit will have a positive impact on the arrival of foreign tourists in the future.

"For Bali, the visit by the state guest has a clear impact due to the number of airplanes that will land at Bali airport with 1.5 thousand people," asserted Ida Bagus Lolec Surakusuma, who is not only an observer but also the tourism operator in Denpasar, Bali.

He argued that the visit was a historic one, as it was the second visit by a Saudi king to Indonesia, after his predecessor who came to Indonesia 47 years ago. The government would hence provide special treatments and services with maximal security.

"The king’s vacation would provide Bali and Indonesia with a free promotion to the world," Surakusuma, who is also the chairman of the Indonesian Convention and Congress Association (INCCA) for Bali, noted.

He stated that security would be enhanced during the visit to prevent undesired incidents, which would create a negative image of Indonesia.

For this purpose, the government, including the regional government of Bali, and all segments of the society, are expected to make the visit a success. The successful visit means that Indonesia would receive a tourism advantage of it.

So far, the number of foreign visitors from the Middle East Countries to Indonesia is still small. With King Salmans visit, the number of visitors from these regions is expected to increase in the future.

During the visit, Bali has the chance to promote its tourism potentials, including its Hinduism-based culture. It could promote its beautiful natural panorama and the uniqueness of its culture, which have so far served as the main attraction to foreign tourists.

Bali had a booming year on the tourism front last year, as the island blew its foreign tourist arrival target out of the water.

Balis target for the year had been set at 4.4 million foreign tourist arrivals, but the island surpassed that number in Nov when the number of foreign tourists starting from Jan 2016 reached 4,485,137, according to data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), Bali Province.

In total, some 4.92 million foreign travelers had visited Bali in 2016, an increase of 23.14 percent as compared to 4.001 million in the previous year.

The majority of tourists visiting Bali come from Australia, China, Japan, the UK, and India, according to the BPS Bali. The percentages of arrivals from these countries were 23.35 percent, 20.22 percent, 4.82 percent, 4.54 percent, and 3.66 percent, respectively.

Kuta is said to be the most popular destination among foreign tourists, while other popular spots include Tanah Lot, Pandawa Bach, Garuda Wisnu Kencana Park, and Bedugul.

Sukawati noted that according to hotel authorities, the Saudi King is expected to stay in the Nusa Dua resort region, the elite hotel area in Badung District, Bali. [antaranews/photo special]