Vice-presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno has not had the easiest of runs during his recent tour of Bali. First, Tabanan village elders refused point blank to let him speak in their community on Sunday, and now Bali authorities are abruptly dismissing his vision to develop halal tourism on the island.
Sandiaga, who is the running mate to presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, put forward his proposal during a speech at Hotel Alkyfa in Denpasar on Sunday, citing the potentially huge economic benefits of catering to Muslim tourists.
“We want Bali, and Indonesia in general, to take the potential of halal tourism which is believed to be worth more than IDR. 3,000 trillion (about US$214 billion). This is extraordinary potential for economic growth in Bali,” he said, as quoted by detiknews.
He expressed a hope for Indonesia to follow suit from other countries in the region already promoting Muslim-friendly tourism though halal-certified restaurants and halal hotels.
Unsurprisingly, Cok Ace, the deputy Governor of Bali, publicly rejected Sandiaga’s idea.
“The concept of halal tourism is not in accordance with the potential, character, and branding of Bali tourism which has been known worldwide all this time,” he said last night, as quoted by Jawa Pos. “If the concept is forced on Bali it will cause a decline in Bali tourism,’ he added.
Though he acknowledged that halal tourism worked well in destinations that have a cultural closeness with Middle Eastern culture, he reiterated that Bali is not one of those destinations.
Instead, he highlighted tourism statistics from the past few years indicating that the highest volumes of tourists coming into Bali were from China, Australia, the UK, France, Japan, Korea, India, America, Germany, and the Netherlands.
“This is the market potential that we must keep and develop,” he explained. He also spoke of Bali’s unique cultural character and natural attractions, a feature that Governor Wayan Koster has been pushing to promote and develop lately.
“This branding could be damaged if we develop a tourism concept that does not match the uniqueness of Balinese culture, for example, halal tourism,” he concluded.