Tourism worries prominent figures in Ubud

Two prominent Ubud figures have openly said that they are anxious about the course of tourism development in the former tiny town, which has now grown into a crowded city, famously dubbed the island’s cultural mecca. Unchecked hotel development and chronic traffic congestion are seen as two major factors in the degradation of Ubud’s quality as an upscale destination. Both have been triggered by the increasing number of visitors to the city, including a surge of tourists from Asian countries, like China, Taiwan and Japan.

Previously, Ubud attracted mostly visitors from European countries, who wanted to view Ubud’s famous landscape and immerse themselves in the cultural activities of the locals. “I am deeply concerned with the current condition of Ubud. The worsening traffic and the proliferation of accommodation facilities based on the city hotel concept will not only tarnish the image of Ubud as an upscale destination but also threaten accommodation owned and operated by locals,” Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa said recently.

He pointed out that the city hotels offered rooms at a similar price level to locally owned homestays and inns, thus, would likely become formidable competition to local businesses. Fondly known as Tjok Ibah, after a large resort he once owned, Kerthyasa is the bendesa (chief) of Ubud customary village, an elder of Ubud royal family and a legislator with Bali’s Legislative Council (DPRD). The term city hotel refers to budget accommodation with tiny rooms, limited amenities and inexpensive rates. Often they are built on a small plot of land and in a boxy architectural style.

For many Balinese, intellectuals and businessmen alike, the city hotel is an anathema that negates the ideals of the island’s tourism development. “The emergence of city hotels in Ubud contradicts the core concept of tourism development here. The core concept is empowering locals by promoting the growth of community-based, locally owned accommodation, as well as reinforcing Ubud’s image as an upscale destination by providing opportunities for investors to build luxurious resorts.” Kerthyasa urged policy makers, businessmen and residents to work together to find solutions to the problem.

He also reminded the regency authorities to be more selective in issuing licenses for new hotels, as well as taking the necessary steps to enforce zoning regulations and to protect local businesses. The authority to issue licenses for the construction of new hotels and operational permits falls under the regency administration, as does the right to collect hotel and restaurant taxes. Badung, the richest regency in Bali, booked more than Rp 2 trillion (US$170.2 million) in revenue in 2013, around 80 percent of which was generated by hotel and restaurant taxes.

Naturally, most regencies in Bali have tried to emulate Badung by issuing as many licenses as possible in the hope of driving their revenue up. Another influential figure, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, a member of the Ubud royal family and former regent of Gianyar, shared a similar concern. He, however, refused to assign the blame solely to the regency administration. “The investors can build hotels in Ubud after securing a recommendation from the village authority.

The regency administration issues the license based on this recommendation,” he said, stressing that during his tenure as Gianyar regent a zoning regulation for Ubud was created and enforced. Sukawati was one of the regents to reject the moratorium issued by Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika in 2011. The policy stipulates that investors are prohibited, temporarily, from constructing new hotels in southern Bali, a region encompassing Denpasar, Badung and Gianyar, where 88 percent of the island’s hotels are located. In his present position as the chairman of the Indonesia Hotels and Restaurants Association (PHRI) Bali chapter, Sukawati vehemently supports the moratorium.

source : bali daily

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