Every year millions of tourists come to Bali for leisure. The island even exceeded its target of attracting 3.1 million tourists by reaching 3.27 million a couple years ago.
But when exactly did Bali become ’noticed’ by tourists and travellers?
According to first data released by Official Netherlands Bureau there were 213 tourists visited Bali in 1924.
Koninklijke Paketcart Maatsckapy (KPM) or Royal Dutch Voyage Associate built Hotel Bali in Denpasar in 1928, where the Puputan Badung 1906 (Puputan Badung war of 1906) took place.
KPM started to provide weekly sailings to Bali since 1924 after previously built Bali’s transportation infrastructure in 1917.
The sailing routes were from Singapore, Batavia (Jakarta), Semarang, Surabaya, Buleleng (Singaraja Harbour), and Makassar – the route was known as Bali Express. This is considered as the starting point of tourists travelling to the island of Gods.
Two years later after 1924, magazine Tourism in Netherlands East Indies stated that on February 8th 1927, the number of travellers had increased into 480 people.
Seeing the significant increase of visitors to the island, KPM decided to build Hotel Bali to cater for the tourists.
Furthermore, the hotel also had an important role in Indonesian national history as it was where the Denpasar Conference was held in 1946, which resulted in the first recognition of east Indonesia.
In 1963 the Bali Beach Hotel in Sanur was built by Sukarno, and boosted tourism in Bali. Prior to it, only three hotels existed on the island.
Construction of hotels and restaurants began to spread throughout Bali. Tourism further increased on Bali after the Ngurah Rai International Airport opened in 1970.
The Buleleng regency government encouraged the tourism sector as one of the mainstays for economic progress and social welfare.
The tourism industry is primarily focused in the south, while significant in the other parts of the island as well.
The main tourist locations are the town of Kuta (with its beach), and its outer suburbs of Legian and Seminyak (which were once independent townships), the east coast town of Sanur (once the only tourist hub).
Ubud towards the center of the island, to the south of the Ngurah Rai International Airport, Jimbaran, and the newer developments of Nusa Dua and Pecatu.
The United States government lifted its travel warnings in 2008. The Australian government issued an advisory on Friday, 4 May 2012, with the overall level of this advisory lowered to ‘Exercise a high degree of caution’.
The Swedish government issued a new warning on Sunday, 10 June 2012 because of one tourist who died from methanol poisoning.
Australia last issued an advisory on Monday, 5 January 2015 due to new terrorist threats.
An offshoot of tourism is the growing real estate industry. Bali’s real estate has been rapidly developing in the main tourist areas of Kuta, Legian, Seminyak and Oberoi.
Most recently, high-end 5-star projects are under development on the Bukit peninsula, on the south side of the island.
Million dollar villas are being developed along the cliff sides of south Bali, with commanding panoramic ocean views.
Foreign and domestic (many Jakarta individuals and companies are fairly active) investment into other areas of the island also continues to grow.
Land prices, despite the worldwide economic crisis, have remained stable. In the last half of 2008, Indonesia’s currency had dropped approximately 30% against the US dollar, providing many overseas visitors value for their currencies.
Visitor arrivals for 2009 were forecast to drop 8% (which would be higher than 2007 levels), mainly due to the worldwide economic crisis which has also affected the global tourist industry.
Bali’s tourism economy survived the Islamists terrorist bombings of 2002 and 2005, and the tourism industry has in fact slowly recovered and surpassed its pre-terrorist bombing levels; the longterm trend has been a steady increase of visitor arrivals.
The 2002 Bali bombings occurred on 12 October 2002 in the tourist district of Kuta on the Indonesian island of Bali.
The attack killed 202 people (including 88 Australians, 38 Indonesians, and people of more than 20 other nationalities). A further 209 people were injured.
In 2010, Bali received 2.57 million foreign tourists, which surpassed the target of 2.0–2.3 million tourists.
The average occupancy of starred hotels achieved 65%, so the island still should be able to accommodate tourists for some years without any addition of new rooms/hotels, although at the peak season some of them are fully booked.
Bali received the Best Island award from Travel and Leisure in 2010. Bali won because of its attractive surroundings (both mountain and coastal areas), diverse tourist attractions, excellent international and local restaurants, and the friendliness of the local people.
The Balinese culture and its religion are also considered as the main factor of the award. One of the most prestigious events that symbolizes a strong relationship between a god and its followers is Kecak Dance.
According to BBC Travel released in 2011, Bali is one of the World’s Best Islands, ranking second after Santorini, Greece.
In August 2010, the film Eat Pray Love was released in theatres. The movie was based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love.
It took place at Ubud and Padang-Padang Beach at Bali. The 2006 book, which spent 57 weeks at the No. 1 spot on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list.
Had already fuelled a boom in Eat, Pray, Love-related tourism in Ubud, the hill town and cultural and tourist center that was the focus of Gilbert’s quest for balance through traditional spirituality and healing that leads to love.
In January 2016, after music icon David Bowie died, it was revealed that in his will, Bowie asked for his ashes to be scattered in Bali, conforming to Buddhist rituals.
He had visited and performed in a number of Southeast Asian cities early in his career, including Bangkok and Singapore.
Since 2011, China has displaced Japan as the second-largest supplier of tourists to Bali, while Australia still tops the list.
Chinese tourists increased by 17% from last year due to the impact of ACFTA and new direct flights to Bali.
In January 2012, Chinese tourists year on year (yoy) increased by 222.18% compared to January 2011, while Japanese tourists declined by 23.54% yoy.
Bali reported that it welcomed 2.88 million foreign tourists and 5 million domestic tourists in 2012, marginally surpassing the expectations of 2.8 million foreign tourists.
Based on a Bank Indonesia survey in May 2013, 34.39 percent of tourists are upper-middle class, spending between $1,286 to $5,592, and are dominated by Australia, France, China, Germany and the US.
Some Chinese tourists have increased their levels of spending from previous years. 30.26 percent of tourists are middle class, spending between $662 to $1,285.
In 2017 it is expected that Chinese tourists will surpass Australian tourists as the most visited in Bali.