Bali’s natural beauty and rich culture have made it a tourist magnet but since COVID19, the island is struggling to stay afloat. Locals are questioning their dependence on tourism and the over-development it has unleashed.

Marcello and the lifeguards of Kuta Beach rise bright and early for their morning meeting and surf sprints. But they know it’s going to be a quiet day. While the iconic beach normally attracts 50 000 visitors a day from around the world, today the head lifeguard expects only 50 people.

“Nobody makes a life on the beach”, says Marcello. “People who sell massage, or merchandise on the beach…I heard they all go back home to their village. It’s a very sad situation.”

It’s a common story across the island, even in its remotest corners.

Off Bali’s east coast on the small island of Ceningan, Wayan lost his job at a hotel, and had to return to farming seaweed with his family. It’s the same story across Ceningan.

“Before we had 100 per cent tourism. Now 80 or 90 percent they are doing seaweed farms”, says Wayan who’s had to cop a 75% pay cut. “We had no choice but to return to nature.”

But some Balinese see the crisis as an opportunity.

“This is a wake-up call for all of us”, says Christia, a young businesswoman. “We realized that we cannot just depend on one industry.”

In this visually stunning story, reporter and cameraman Matt Davis travels around Bali and discovers an island in the midst of some serious soul searching.

He meets locals who are questioning the unhinged development that’s accompanied the tourist boom and who want to chart a different course for the future.

“Bali tourism industry is based on two things, nature and culture”, says rock star Robi Gede, “and we cannot sacrifice them”.

Politicians and businesspeople want to fix the congestion, pollution and rubbish problems and encourage a different type of tourism. One that’s sustainable and benefits locals more.

“I think it’s a good time for reflection this year”, says Christia, “Go back to loving our island and make sure that people don’t abuse our island as well.”

“We hope that when the tourists come back, they are coming with a good energy, they are not littering, with more respect for the local rules”, says Marcello. “Come with a good vibe.”

About Foreign Correspondent:
Foreign Correspondent is the prime-time international public affairs program on Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC-TV. We produce half-hour duration in-depth reports for broadcast across the ABC’s television channels and digital platforms. Since 1992, our teams have journeyed to more than 170 countries to report on war, natural calamity and social and political upheaval – through the eyes of the people at the heart of it all.

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  1. Patsy Hodge

    I love Bali because its warm, cheap and interesting. I have been several times, last time 2 years ago. But Bali is VERY CORRUPT. Do not trust the cops either. Money will buy you anything and I mean anything. You can ask your taxi driver or your wait staff to get you weed, coke whatever, but you need to be very careful doing that in who you can trust. Build up a friendship first and tip them. The local pharmacy will also sell you anything and I mean medications and pain killers you can not buy over the counter in 1st world countries. There is no animal welfare policies, some dogs and cats I have seen were in horrendous condition, cock fighting is also a normal pastime there. Beware the shopkeepers will give you the wrong change and also argue with you about it. You will also be followed and harrasssed to come to their shop, I give you good price, you nice lady. It is constant and relentless as soon as you leave your resort or hotel. Same with the taxi drivers. And women beggers with a baby……..for the baby for the baby.
    But all in all you cannot help but fall in love with Bali and all its plastic, traffic and noise.
    Im going back soon and cant wait to see it all cleaned up and the fecking plastic problem sorted out.
    Good things are happening there. I am so pleased. There is no place like Bali on a warm evening, on the beach, sun going down with your loved one. So free and easy there. Everyone should go, they will love it after the 1st day, and always give the shop keepers a
    fair price, dont haggle too much because things are already cheap.

  2. A Happy Travis

    Bali should become more exclusive with who they let in for a while. Thus, they can; fix their environment, fix their governance, reconnect with their culture and find more self-sustainable options in fueling their lifestyles. Hence, they can create better revenues streams other than tourism. The sad thing is; if you put a bright team of engineers in control of their country for a period it would be so easy to fix these inherent problems tourism has on Bali.

  3. Safuwan Fauzi

    Cleanup also community help, we all responsible to our environment, do not throw always plastic waste in the river, canal, sea and lake, we need together, with government, NGO and people help clean the land.

  4. Sylvia Spiker

    I hope they start fines against individuals and companies that litter. Tax heavily on those who contribute to the pollution. Jail tourists if they do significant damage to the land. Singapore does something similar.

  5. Mika Yass Lee

    If a place must rely on tourism to survive then it deserves to be dead. I believe Bali with less tourists is a better place.

  6. CITIZEN ONE, Author

    A small place like Bali should ban ALL plastic bottles. Glass bottles are the way to go and can easily be 100% recycled like they used to be in the West.

  7. Peter Forster

    16:08 Wonderful how Western instruments and music have given so much pleasure to indigenous peoples around the World. Thank heavens for the Colonizers!


    OMG this report is so LEFT-Wing. Numbers rounded up. Illogical statements. Pretty much the state of Western MSM in the 21st C. BTW seaweed farming is good, I know the Left have an aversion to work, but its what gives life its nobility and purpose. Seaweed has amazing health benefits.

  9. Ronald Ch

    Government never learn. They only want money from the developer, but they doesn't established the rules. Rules only applies if they please, but if you get money rules can be break… Government should be blame.

  10. The ProAgent Team - Gaston Coma Raywhite

    I hope they will make changes. Last time I went there was so much rubbish on the beach I promised never come back. Love your island!

  11. whanau no.1

    close your boarders to heal look after your people your awesome people your beautiful lands your ocean
    don't lose your culture your family. chur macuzzy!!

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