Bali: On Ethical Tourism

Waiting for the meeting to start. We were all in a good mood it seems with lots of smiles around. It’s always an honor to sit behind the country’s name.

All day Saturday was spent at the conference. We met many professionals from government, the private sector and civil society.

H.E. Mr Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) delivering his address at the Conference.

From the presentations, it became clear to me that ethical development is a  key issue in tourism development.

Ms Tricia Barnett, Director, Tourism Concern, United Kingdom making her presentation. She had a powerful message on the plight of and disadvantages faced by workers in tourism establishments. The exploitation through tourism.

Many countries are now making a paradigm shift from a bigger profit margin to sustainable development which is inclusive and innovative.

We heard about how one hotel in East Java, Indonesia has very successfully banned smoking in their hotel rooms and still able to operate at capacity. The significance of this is that Indonesia is within the top 5 heaviest smoking nations in Asia and 2nd to the Philippines within the ASEAN region. However, despite this, the hotel in Surabaya became the flagship for ethical development in tourism in that area. There were cynics who said the hotel will not make it but it proved them absolutely wrong.

Some smoking trivia, the Jakarta Post reported on 31st May, 2012 that, ” Sixty-five million Indonesians spend Rp 100 trillion (US$10.4 billion) to buy 225 billion cigarettes every year, doctors say.

Even worse, the number of smokers in the nation has risen by 0.9 percent every year between 2000 and 2008, according to the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI).”

Some of the speakers at the Conference.

The conference concluded with the declaration of a Global Code of Ethics in tourism development for Asia and the Pacific region.

Details of this regional conference can be read on the the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) website. You can also download the ‘Spirit of Bali Statement’ which was the major outcome of the Asia Pacific regional meeting:  ‘UNWTO Seminar on Tourism Ethics for Asia and the Pacific: Responsible Tourism and its Socio-Economic Impact on Local Communities’.

The meeting was jointly hosted by the UNWTO and the Government of Indonesia.

The quality of speakers and the material presented at this meeting was very high. Services and the hospitality we experienced was absolutely A-1.

It appears that countries in Asia are moving towards sustainable tourism but they may be a lone voice in the wilderness of luxurious hotel development and the vagaries of tastes of the touring public. But am also encouraged by the show of support for sustainable and more inclusive tourism development at this meeting in Bali.

This is an indication that PNG’s tourism offer is one that should include the collaboration and cooperation of all service providers who will underpin the growth of the tourism industry in PNG. The service providers span a cross section of the society and the development sector which includes by and large, infrastructure, law and order, agriculture, health and education.

Participation of local communities depends very much on the time dedicated to making them aware of the cost of tourism and how it will impact on their lives and their livelihoods. What are their views on such things as water usage, land usage, the impact on their tribal and traditional practices and so on. We  need more anthropological data and support that will underpin ethical development.

The speakers with their gifts at the conclusion of the seminar.

The use of technology for ethical tourism development is inevitable and can drive awareness amongst/of tourists/the touring population as well as the tourism product owners.

A fortuitous opportunity this was to cultivate the necessary regional and international networks that have the potential to provide much needed technical and strategic advice and support for capacity building and so on and so forth.

Bali: At The Melia

The north side of the Melia Hotel Bali. The grounds were so quiet and beautiful.

This is the second post on my visit to Bali last June – a year ago. My, how time flies.

On Friday evening (on the day we arrived in Bali), we were told that we have been invited as participants to the regional meeting to attend a cultural festival which will be opened by The President of the Republic of Indonesia.

This was news to us as we were not told earlier when we checked into our hotel – the Grand Bali Nusa Dua. We also had not received copies of our programme in Bali for that weekend apart from attending the inaugural Global Ethics on Tourism meeting at a neighbouring hotel.

We only found out when we sauntered into the Melia Hotel Bali about 4.00pm or thereabouts. This hotel was the location of our regional meeting the next day, Saturday. The announcement that we were going to a cultural festival that evening was really a surprise and a half!

Entrance to the Melia Bali – the gong seems to be a common feature in most Balinese and Indonesian establishments. They use it to announce the arrival of an important visitor.

Thank goodness we are from Papua New Guinea which has a blessed word-of-mouth culture and are not so hung up on a written programme so we had no problems as we switched on to our coconut wireless and asked around to find out what we were supposed to be doing. One thing we realised we had to do was wear something decent and dignified as we were going to be in the presence of so many VIPs and in a manner speaking we too were VIPs that evening at the cultural festival.

We scrambled to find suitable attire for the occasion. We looked around and at eachother and wondered whether we should attend or not. We could have laid on the excuse that we did not have the right kind of clothes for the event or we could have decided simply not to go. However, I reckon since we were the only ones from the Pacific Islands region and besides we were Papua New Guineans, such excuses are lame and embarrassing. So we bit the bullet and decided we were certainly on that bus to the festival. We might learn something valuable about Balinese culture – that made up our minds for us!

The grand foyer at the Melia Bali. Loved the high ceilings and open design.

We had to think on our feet – there was no time to return to our hotel so the best thing we could do was purchase batik clothes.  Batik is generally accepted as ‘formal’ wear so that was easy – but where to get batik-wear was the million dollar question. Thank goodness there was a souvenir shop at the Melia so we went in there pronto! After getting in and out of several outfits we settled on a blouse for me and a shirt for my colleague. At last we were set and felt confident that we can now join the other more formally attired fellow participants.

A very valuable lesson for the future – advise all participants of the programme apart from the programme of the meeting proper for which we had traveled over 8 hours (including the overnight stop in Singapore) from our country via Singapore to participate in.

One word to describe this place – grand!

We joined the others were were already assembled at the hotel entrance and waited for our bus to arrive.

A stone sculpture on the grounds of the Melia Bali.

By the way, we found out that we were not the only ones looking for something descent to wear to the festival and that made us feel better. Another delegate to the meeting was also looking for something descent and more Balinese or Indonesian to wear. We didn’t feel too bad then.

As we waited for the bus I spared a few minutes to take these shots.

This beautiful sort of parasol caught my eye. Very ornate set.

This hotel is bigger and grand than the Grand Bali Nusa Dua but I wasn’t disappointed at all – just glad that I could wonder around and take some shots of the Melia Hotel Bali.

I’m always fascinated by hotels especially the architecture and the materials used. The Melia was no exception. I guess hotels anywhere always try to find the edge that induces tourists and those like us attending conferences and so on to feel like the hotel is a ‘home away from home’ and in some instances that is the case. I find that hotels in Asia actually fit into the category of ‘home away from home’ come to think of it.

Another stone sculpture outside the hotel. Stone sculptures seemed to be a common feature at this hotel and my hotel. The black and white checkered fabric seems to be a feature at this hotel too.

Our bus eventually arrived and as we clambered onto the bus, I wondered what the rooms at the Melia were like and what the rate per night was.

En route to the festival we were served an early dinner in woven baskets on the bus.  This was a novelty for me and I marvelled at the simplest things which the Balinese do as they extended the hand of friendship and hospitality wherever we went during our brief stay in Bali.

This was also unexpected but I was pleasantly surprised as lunch was a fair few hours ago on the flight to Bali from Singapore. Oh yes, my colleague and I were upgraded to Business Class in Singapore so you can imagine what lunch was like especially on a Singapore Airlines flight – one word “sumptuous!”

I loved this sign – written with stones, on sand, and decorated with a flower. Lovely and elegant like everything about this hotel.

The journey to the festival went smoothly and once again I felt so privileged to have been there and to have enjoyed the cultural programme besides even though we were not made aware of it when we arrived. I guess it was clearly a case of being at the right place at the right time.

I’ve added the Melia Hotel Bali to my list of possible hotels to check out next time I plan to visit Bali.