BALI is worried the quality of its tourists is declining — and it’s considering tough new rules to stop offensive behaviour.
Sick of Western tourists climbing on holy sites or disrespectfully posing for photos in skimpy swimwear, authorities on Bali, known as “the island of 1000 temples”, are considering tough new restrictions on tourists’ access to those sacred areas.
And it could mean tourists will be banned from visiting Hindu temples unaccompanied, Bali’s deputy governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Sukawati, known as Cok Ace, said.
“The quality of tourists is now different from before,” he said at a recent regional council meeting.
“It is because we are too open with tourists, so too many come.”
Bali’s annual visitor intake reached five million in 2017.
But with them have come increased bad behaviour, and Cok Ace said in coming weeks the regional council would be rethinking what tourists could and couldn’t do around Bali’s Hindu temples.
That may include no longer letting tourists visit the temples unaccompanied.
“This is the government’s attempt to maintain the Pura (temples),” Cok Ace said.
His comments appeared to be prompted by a recent viral photo of a Danish tourist sitting on the holy Linggih Padmasana shrine at Puhur Luhur Batukaru temple.
A tourist sparked outrage this month with this photo at a sacred Balinese Hindu shrine
The tourist can be seen squatting on the throne, which is supposed to be left vacant for Balinese Hinduism’s most important deity.
The photo caused a scandal in Indonesia, where blasphemy is illegal. Authorities are reported to be looking for the tourist.
Earlier this year, a Spanish vlogger came under fire after he posted a video of himself climbing up a temple. He was forced to issue an apology.
In 2016, a young woman dressed in a bikini sparked outrage in Bali when she was photographed in a yoga pose in front of a temple.
Australian expat and Bali resident Rachel Bergma previously urged tourists to cover up around sacred sites.
She told news.com.au wearing skimpy clothes, or going totally topless, was not OK on the holiday island.
“It is not new to Bali to see girls dressed inappropriately. It has been a problem with Europeans for a while now,” she told news.com.au.
“What is new … is the latest fashion that young people wear. The shorts that show actual bum cheek and the crop tops.”
Many sites of importance to religions around the world require visitors to dress respectfully, but many destinations have struggled with under dressed tourists.
In Thailand, an American couple were charged with indecency last year for dropping their pants for a bare-bottomed photo at the sacred Wat Arun temple.
Earlier this month Australian expat Matthew Smith, who has lived in Thailand for 10 years, said tourists needed to be reminded of the “little things that can upset the locals”, like dressing inappropriately around holy sites.
He said he often saw it happen at Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage site north of Bangkok.
“A few times in Ayutthaya, while visiting the historical city ruins district with my wife, we saw tourists fail to comply with the rules of etiquette,” he told news.com.au.
“We saw tourists climbing on ancient walls, not wearing proper attire even after being told by ticket sellers or whatnot, being in spots to take photos that were not permitted.”
Authorities at Cambodia’s sacred Angkor Wat site imposed strict dress codes on tourists in 2016, which outlawed exposed knees and shoulders.
The crackdown followed a series of “nude photographs” at the Buddhist site.
The same year, India’s tourism minister told female tourists to stop wearing short dresses, skirts and other “skimpy” clothes to protect their safety.
“Indian culture is different from Western culture,” Mahesh Sharma said.