Bali’s reputation as a cheap playground is under threat as Chinese visitors dethrone Australians as the island’s biggest foreign tourism market after a three-fold increase in the past two years.
Figures released by the Bali Tourist Board show about 738,000 Chinese visitors to Bali in the first seven months of this year, compared with about 250,000 in the same period two years ago.
About 537,000 Australians visited the island between January and July this year.
Indonesia Institute’s Ross Taylor said: “Australians are no longer the kings and queens of Bali”.
“For a while I have said there is going to be a tsunami of Chinese visitors to Bali and it is now with us,” he said.
“And this is just the start.”
Mr Taylor said the influx of Chinese tourists had already driven up prices in Bali and he expected prices would rise further as the numbers of affluent holidaymakers increased.
He forecast further development would put increasing pressure on the island’s precious water resources and struggling infrastructure.
Mr Taylor said farmers were increasingly selling their rice fields to developers eager to cater to the influx of Chinese tourists.
“It’s getting to the point where they will lose some of the things that attract people to Bali,” he said.
Mr Taylor said Bali was still relatively cheap because the exchange rate was twice as favourable for Australians as it was five years ago — but it was no longer “super cheap”.
While Australians had been dethroned as the biggest inbound tourist market, he said they would always hold special importance to the Balinese because Australians spent their money around the island, rather than just in the big hotels.