Mon, 14 Aug 2000

Bali's dynamics in the shadow of tourism

By I Gde Pitana

DENPASAR, Bali (JP): At present, tourism has touched almost every corner of the world -- every country and every region -- directly, as well as indirectly.

Bali has had a significant slice of the action. This environmentally friendly industry, which started in the 1920s, has become an inseparable part of this idyllic island.

Over the last few decades, tourism has become a generator in economic development and a prime mover in Bali's sociocultural changes.

In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that any discussion of Bali cannot be separated from tourism. Tourism has now become an integral part of daily life on the island.

Furthermore, in each discussion on tourism, Bali is always cited as a case study that cannot be ignored.

The number of foreign tourists visiting Bali increased gradually from 10,997 in 1968 to 155,597 in 1983 The figures had accelerated to 1,140,988 by 1996.

In 1999, even though Indonesia had not recovered from the crisis, Bali managed to attract 1,347,794 tourists coming directly from foreign ports, not including those who traveled to Bali via another port of entry in Indonesia.

Together with domestic tourists from other areas in the archipelago, the total number of tourists visiting Bali this year is predicted to be double the 1999 figure.

On a further note, the average period of foreign visitors has also increased. In 1984, the average tourist only stayed 5.4 nights, whereas in 1999 this increased to 9.8 nights.

Tourism and economy of Bali

It cannot be denied that tourism is increasingly playing a central role in the development of the economy of Bali. During Pelita (the five-year plan) I, II, III, and IV from 1969 to 1989, the priority for Bali's development was placed on the agricultural sector.

This was in line with the fact that agriculture was the biggest contributor toward the Gross Domestic Regional Product (GDRP), even though it was losing its dominance from 61.21 percent at the beginning of Pelita I (1969), to only 36.30 percent at the end of Pelita III (1983).

On the other hand, restaurants and hotels catering to tourists were becoming more important, ranking second in their contribution to the GDRP, which had increased from 9.52 percent at the beginning of Pelita I to 13.9 percent at the end of Pelita III.

This sector gradually gained importance and became the number one contributor toward the GDRP of Bali.

In 1995, this sector contributed 30.26 percent of the GDRP, whereas the agriculture sector contributed only 21.23 percent. In 1999, tourism, and all its related activities, was estimated to contribute approximately 51.6 percent to the income of the Balinese.

In terms of human resources, in 1995, tourism absorbed 34.14 percent of all human resources in Bali. This percentage increased steadily, reaching 38 percent in 1998.

The rapid growth of tourism has managed to accelerate the economy of Bali.

This is reflected by the per capita GDRP of Bali, which was Rp 198,500 in 1980, increasing to Rp 2,563,114 in 1995.

This jump was made possible by the tourists who spent a lot of money while on holiday. A large proportion of this money went to hotels (29.9 percent), arts, handicrafts and souvenirs (23.6 percent) and restaurants (20.7 percent), with a corresponding multiplier effect coming into play.

Tourism and the arts and culture

The impact of tourism on the arts is an interesting topic to discuss in the case of Bali, as the type of tourism developed in Bali is "cultural tourism".

Cultural tourism implies that culture is used as a basis for development.

In the development of tourism based on culture, it is expected that the two walk hand-in-hand in the sense that tourism development will promote the culture of Bali.

Other countries have reported that tourism has destroyed their culture. Nations in the Pacific region, for example, have reported that tourism has uprooted the community from its original forms of art, which are the expressions of the their culture to meet the demands of tourists.

Art brokers who work in tourism have "forced" the people to change various performing arts to accommodate the tastes of tourists.

This results in the abrasion and disappearance of traditional religious arts, which are replaced by touristic arts and commodity arts.

In other parts of the world, tourism has forced the local community to become involved in the commercial network, and to be alienated from their social, cultural and religious roots.

But what about Bali? The arts, particularly music and the performing arts, are, in fact, one of Bali's main attractions that has become one of its main imagemakers from the very beginning of tourism here.

A 1924 brochure promoting Bali that is illustrated with a dancing girl is proof that the performing arts have been one of the main imagemakers of Bali.

At the beginning of tourism in Bali, cultural performances were already the main item used to attract tourists to Bali.

The Legong dance was almost always one of the chief attractions on a program welcoming tourists who stayed at the Bali Hotel in the 1920s and 1930s.

This was followed by the creation of various performances to satisfy the tastes and needs of tourists, such as the Barong dance, the Kris dance and the Monkey dance.

Although a religious element can still be seen in those dances, the focus is on the commercial quality of the show.

It cannot be denied that up to a certain level, the culture and the arts have been turned into commodities and thus it can be said that tourism has caused a degradation in the quality of the arts.

Furthermore, the arts have become profane in the sense that religious art performances are specially performed for tourists.

This has, for example, occurred in the performance of the Sanghyang dance, the Barong dance, tektekan, telak and wayang wong.

Nevertheless, many positive influences have emerged because of tourism in Bali.

There are at least five related areas in which this positive influence can be noted.

First, tourism has given various forms of art a place and opportunity for expression.

Several types of performing arts that had almost been forgotten by the Balinese were revitalized with the development of tourism. Different forms of art that had vanished were revived.

Second, tourism has directly spurred the creativity of Balinese artists. It has promoted many forms of dance and short performing arts.

A surge in growth was also observed in sculpture.

Directly and indirectly, the creation of various carvings in the form of trees, fruit, flowers, animals, etc., is closely related to the development of tourism.

Third, related to the creativity and revitalization, the arts of Bali have become richer in form in quality as well as quantity.

Various forms of art appeared side by side with the traditional ones.

Fourth, tourism has encouraged the Balinese to reflect on their art as a characteristic of their identity.

This reflection has led them to be proud of their art and culture.

Fifth, an interesting phenomenon that appeared with the emergence of tourism and its interaction with the arts is the harmonious integration between the conservation of culture and the economic activities of the people.

The points above clearly show that there is a dynamic interaction between tourism and the arts of Bali.

This reinforces the findings of an American anthropologist, McKean, who stated more than two decades ago that although a social and economic change was occurring in Bali, those that changed joined hands with the efforts to conserve traditional art and culture.

As a matter of fact, tourism has strengthened the process of conservation, reformation and the recreation of various traditions, including the arts.

Tourism has selectively strengthened local traditions through a process called cultural involution.

Foreign influence in Balinese culture can be said to have become "an additive" and not a "substitute".

This means that various influences were accepted but not used to replace the existing culture. Rather they were used to enrich and develop what already existed.

Foreign influence was not absorbed wholesale. It was rather filtered in a so-called "Balinization process" so that it became "genuinely Balinese".

The cultural history of Bali is, in fact, a history of syncretism, showing a strong ability to survive and adapt in the winds of change.

A more interesting fact is that the existence of tourism has given the Balinese the inspiration to think about themselves critically and to fortify their Balinese identity.

At a certain level, even now, a process of ethnical crystallization, or in anthropological terms, indigenization, is taking place. The Balinese are becoming increasingly proud of themselves as being Balinese. The income that is generated through tourism is rechanneled to fertilize and strengthen traditional ties, such as the customs and religion of those living in Banjar.

In this process, the modern has walked hand-in-hand with the traditional, internalization with "Balinization".

Thus, it is not true that tourism has uprooted the Balinese from their culture.