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Bali Governor Considers Tourist Levy for Environmental Conservation

bali tourist tax

Following the recent introduction of an island-wide ban on the use of single plastics, Governor Wayan Koster has announced that Bali is preparing to introduce a $10 levy on foreign tourists.

More than 5.7 million tourists visited Bali in 2017, a figure expected to exceed 6 million in 2018, according to a report in the Jakarta Post. The $60million that would potentially be generated as a result of the new tourist levy would be allocated to fund programmes intended to 'preserve the environment and Balinese culture', said Governor Koster. 'This will give us better fiscal space to support the development of Bali,' he added. 

Indonesia is the second-largest contributor after China to global plastic pollution. This is partly due to the rapid development of the nation as a whole, much of it through tourism, but without the necessary infrastructure present for waste disposal. The problem was starkly highlighted by a viral video from British diver Rich Horner, who filmed himself swimming with mantas through a massive cloud of plastic debris off the island of Nusa Penida in March 2017.

Although events, as depicted in the video, are rare, and much of the plastic undoubtedly came from further afield than Bali itself, the Bali Environment Agency reported that up to 3,800 tonnes of plastic waste is produced across the island on a daily basis, only 60 per cent of which ends up in landfill.

bali plastic kuta beach

A 2017 photograph shows the popular tourist area of Kuta beach covered with discarded plastic (Photo: Maxim Blinkov/Shutterstock.com)

The plastic ban, introduced on 24 December, extends to a range of products including shopping bags, styrofoam and plastic straws. It is hoped that the ban will result in a 70 per cent reduction in plastic waste found throughout Bali's marine environment. The new tourist tax will aid in providing better waste disposal services, and Governor Koster is confident that tourists will not be deterred from visiting Bali in lieu of the new levy.

'Tourists will understand,' said Koster. 'They will be happy to pay it as it will be used to strengthen our environment and culture,' he said. 

Ida Bagus Purwa Sidemen, executive director of the Bali branch of the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association, agreed with Governor Kosta but warned that there must be a demonstrable improvement in the reduction of plastic pollution, to ensure that tourists felt that their contributions were being put to meaningful use.

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

How the tourist tax is collected has yet to be determined. The preferred option under discussion is to include the levy as an addition to the price of airline tickets, however, the idea of either an entry or exit fee has also been mooted. This would be in line with other nations who levy environmental charges on tourists, such as the Republic of Palau, which requires visitors to sign the 'Palau Pledge' stamped into their passports on arrival, and pay a departure fee of $50 – a $30 'green' tax and $20 'head' tax – on all tourists leaving the country.

'Other countries also charge foreign tourists,' said Ketut Ardana, Chairman of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies Bali. 'I think $10 won't affect them. If we visit Dubai, we should pay $11 per person and we pay it.'

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