Bali considers tourist tax after deporting Russian tourist for taking nude photo with sacred tree

Indonesia's tourism industry representatives advocated caution when implementing such a tax, worried that it might cause tourists to cancel visits.

Tan Min-Wei | April 19, 2023, 01:47 PM

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The Indonesian government is considering a tax for foreign tourists visiting Bali, but local industry players are cautioning that it might damage the local economy.

Nude breach

According to The Jakarta Post, Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno told media on Apr. 17 that a tax plan for foreign tourists was being studied at the moment.

The study was to determine how much the tax should be, or if a tax was even the right move.

The proposal for a foreign visitor tax to the island came as a Russian tourist was deported on the same day for taking a nude photo in front of a sacred 700 year-old banyan tree.

According to Says, the Russian woman had been outed on Apr. 11 by a local Balinese influencer for pictures taken two years earlier, and she was arrested the day after, before being deported on Apr. 17.

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A post shared by Ni Luh Putu Ary Pertami Djelantik (@niluhdjelantik)

AFP reported that the woman, identified as Luiza Kosykh, was in Bali on a temporary-stay Visa that was valid  until December 2024.

Mass tourism vs quality tourism

She will be the 59th Russian tourists deported from Bali since last year, as documented in an ABC report that highlights friction between Russian tourists and Balinese locals and authorities.

Only two weeks prior on Apr. 6, a Russian blogger was deported for exposing his naked buttocks atop a Balinese volcano.

Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan posted on Instagram on Apr. 3 that "we need to show (foreign tourists) that (Indonesia) are a nation that greatly upholds cultural values, traditions and rules).

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A post shared by Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan (@luhut.pandjaitan)

AFP reports that both Luhut and Sandiaga have suggested that the tax could be used to develop and market Indonesia's tourist destinations, as well as using the tax revenue for environmental conservation.

Luhut said in his Instagram post that Bali had to move from "mass tourism to quality tourism".

Bali has been taking steps to combat troublesome tourists, including a ban on foreign tourists renting motorcycles, numerous incidents of tourists breaking traffic laws.

But an editorial in The Jakarta Post has questioned the viability of such a tax, equating it to "collective punishment" on all tourist, when only a small number are actively committing any infraction.

Such a tax, they said, would "do little to change the behaviour of tourists".

It might even paint Indonesia as hostile to tourists as a whole, at a time when the tourism industry was recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Local industry players also warned that such a policy needed careful consideration, to ensure that it did not cause tourists canceling plans to visit the country, and that they would strongly oppose the tax if it did.

Tourists cost

Indonesia's consideration of a tourist tax is the latest in a series of such taxes being either implemented or considered in Asia.

Thailand will begin collecting a 300 baht (S$12) tourism fee in June 2023, aimed at supporting healthcare for foreign tourists. 

Meanwhile the South Korean Island of Jeju is also considering implementing an "admission tax" for visitors of about 8,170 won (S$8.27) per day. 

The island, is a popular tourist destination, and the Jeju Island Authority announced the measure to address local worries about tourism's environmental impact.

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Top image via niluhdjelantik/Instagram & Harry Kessel/Unsplash