I didn’t want to write about traffic again but after the last few days of chaos on the roads of Bali, I have to! Traffic jams spoil holidays and that’s what 6 million people come here for, a holiday, to relax and enjoy their precious free time. But that simply does not involve sitting for hours in completely stationary lines of cars. That ruins your mood, destroys your enjoyment, wastes your time and screws up your day. And that is what people have been facing every day they are here.
Bali has so much to enjoy from mountains to forests, from villages to secluded beaches, from temples to palaces, and if you can’t get there it is a real shame, actually a tragedy. It means that visitors can only experience a tiny bit of this beautiful island, probably only in the close vicinity of their hotel and that means they are not seeing real Bali.
It is the government’s desire to have as many visitors to Bali as possible to reap the financial rewards of their expenditure on hotels, restaurants and shopping, but when that number (over 6,000,000 in 2018) exceeds the “carrying capacity” of the infrastructure, which it clearly does, then that desire needs to be tempered with real analysis, real planning, real policies, so that everyone coming here can enjoy all the island has to offer.
When I first came to Bali in 1979 there were 130,000 foreign visitors to Bali. That has grown over the last 40 years at over 100% per year on average, which has proved impossible for the infrastructure to keep up with. If you add on the lack of public transport (that’s being kind) and the increase in wealth allowing everyone to own a car or a motorbike, that has led to this congestion and chaos.
If all we have to offer is endless traffic in Bali, with roaring motorcycles, and crowded, broken sidewalks, the problem will soon solve itself as discerning tourists will simply not return. We have to change now from quantity tourism to quality or we’ll only have traffic jams to enjoy in the future. Nothing else.