Tourists are being ‘traded’ between Chinese and Balinese travel agents, officials warn

Tourists from Shenzhen welcomed upon their arrival in Bali on Jan. 22, 2023. Photo: Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy
Tourists from Shenzhen welcomed upon their arrival in Bali on Jan. 22, 2023. Photo: Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy

Officials in Bali have expressed their concern that an unfair business practice carried out by colluding Chinese and Indonesian travel agents would be detrimental to the island’s tourism industry.

Earlier this week, Bali Vice Governor Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati AKA Cok Ace highlighted what he said was a longstanding issue that is coming back to the fore with the return of Chinese tourists this year.

Cok Ace said, even before the pandemic, tourists from China were “traded by the head” between Chinese and Indonesian travel agents. The practice not only deprived businesses in Bali of income from Chinese tourists, the tourists themselves have also complained that they have been robbed of the full Island of Gods experience.

The Bali chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) expanded on Cok Ace’s statement, explaining that Bali-based travel agents have been known to pay their counterparts in China for the exclusive right to their clients while they are in Bali. The Bali travel agents would pay US$10 to US$20 per tourist.

“In Bali, [the Balinese travel agents] would then force the tourists to purchase tour packages, buy souvenirs, take part in water sports, and so on,” Bali PHRI Deputy Chairman I Gusti Ngurah Rai Suryawijaya said.

Another way for the local travel agents to recoup their investment is by taking the tourists to partner businesses like restaurants.

Numbers wise, Chinese travelers were amongst the highest by volume on the island prior to the pandemic. In 2019, out of 6,275,210 recorded arrivals, 1,186,057 or almost 20 percent came from China. 

After a long pandemic pause, Bali welcomed its first direct flight from China in late January 2023. The island’s administration is hoping for even more direct flights from China this year in anticipation of an expected boom of Chinese travelers.

In the meantime, Cok Ace said his administration is working on eradicating the unfair business practice between Chinese and Balinese travel agents.

Reader Interactions


  1. Short sighted and probably counter productive.
    A vast majority of Chinese tourist prefer to, and prebook through agents before coming here.
    ‘Swapping’ at least gives some of the business to localos.

  2. This is nothing new. In Australia the Chinese are herded by other Chinese in the country into groups which ONLY use Chinese service providers. Of course they get fleeced at every point along the way. The Japanese used to do it too with their many visitors. Examples: Buses owned/operated by Chinese will take the Chinese around to the usual areas, then to a Chinese operated duty free store, Chinese restaurant and so-on. Of course all these service providers don’t pay much tax, if any, because payments are all under the table. There is some revenue flow-through though, in that all the Chinese providers have to buy raw inputs and they pay GST on that (their staff are paid peanuts and are sometimes illegal – so the illegal ones get paid even less).

  3. The problem with so-called Chinese tourists is that many will arrive but many never leave. This is methodology used by the Chinese Communist Party to establish an army in foreign lands. We have seen this same ploy being used in the Philippines. Just say no to Chinese infiltration.

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