The Impact of Tourism in Bali

Written by eric feigenbaum
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The Impact of Tourism in Bali
Bali's rich culture helps drive its tourism. (Bali gate image by Fiorelino from

Bali, Indonesia is one of the world's most beautiful and exotic locations enjoyed by many tourists worldwide. Because of its very relaxed and open-minded culture, the Balinese have a special talent for welcoming foreigners while at the same time maintaining their traditions. This is part of what visitors tend to love about Bali. Tourism has had a dramatic and immeasurable impact on Bali--both positive and negative--in just about every aspect of island's being.

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Economically, Bali has benefited tremendously from tourism and foreigners coming to develop trade. In 2007, Bali reported £247 million in exports, which is only a part of its overall economic activity. This is even more outstanding when you consider Bali's small size of 5,636 square kilometres and population of three million. Hotels, guest houses, restaurants, transportation, tour guiding, boating and other tourism activities take place year-round with an estimated 200,000 jobs as of 1997. The Balinese enjoy a high standard of living for their country because of their active economy, where tourism plays an important role. They also benefit from a tradition of family homes and farm land that are passed down generationally.

Urban Growth

Traditionally, Bali's primary industry was rice cultivation and other farming. Balinese worked to sustain themselves--aided largely by a lush, rich-soiled, fruit-bearing environment. Like most agrarian societies, there were no large cities--only series of villages with regional centres where the kings resided.

Today Denpasar, the island prefect's capital, has 370,000 residents. The southern tourist areas of Seminyak and Jimbaran are lined with hotels, guest houses, restaurants, nightclubs and all varieties of shopping including many international chain stores and hypermarkets. Many developers have created luxury housing and villas extending toward the beaches and up into the rice terraces of central Bali. These are offered both as vacation rentals as well as for purchase. Accordingly, villages and towns have expanded and in some cases, blurred together. The change in economy which brings economic success, also has changed Bali's landscape.


In 2002 and again in 2005, the touristic area, Kuta beach, which contains many nightclubs, was bombed by terrorists. The 2002 bombing had large losses of life to foreigners inside a nightclub where bombers blew themselves up along with their victims. The 2005 bombing had a lesser death toll and was more destructive to Balinese locals because the bombers had trouble making it inside the security perimeter established after the prior bombing.

In both cases, the bombing planners who took credit and several of whom were tried and convicted, claimed their actions were designed to undercut tourism. The bombing masterminds were fundamental Islamists from neighbouring Java who felt that Bali's 93% Hindu population was too permissive and encouraging of the undesirable behaviour of Western tourists in Indonesia.

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