Things are heating up in Keramas on Bali’s eastern coast, as we now enter the third day into World Surf League’s Corona Bali Protected 2018. But it’s not just surfers that are frothing over the showdown amongst some of the world’s top surfers—Indonesian government officials are also stoked about the sport.
The competition, which kicked off on Sunday and will run through June 9, is one of eight WSL events to be held in Indonesia in 2018—though the other seven are qualifying series (QS) events.
Two QS events have already been held earlier this year in Sumatra at Krui, Lampung and Mentawai. The remaining events are slated for West Sumbawa, Nias, Cimaja, Mandalika, and Simeulue, which should run between June and September 2018.
Bali is the WSL Championship Tour’s fifth stop, where 33 males surfers and 18 females are battling out in the surf.
The Corona Bali Pro is fully supported by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism, a move that reflects the government’s more recently acknowledged tactic of selling Indonesia as a surfing destination to try and attract more foreign tourists. Not that surfers need to be told that Indonesia’s full of world class breaks, but the government hasn’t always been so quick to use surfing as a selling point for tourists.
A word from a Ministry of Tourism official speaking during the competition’s opening makes it sound like the ministry just only now had the revelation that it should capitalize on the archipelago nation’s epic waves.
“Indonesia is a paradise for surfers around the world,” said Indroyono Soesilo, advisor to the Ministry of Tourism for the acceleration of marine tourism.
“Our country has a lot of potential (for marine tourism) that can be used to attract travelers from abroad.
“The government sees great potential for surfing, so starting this year, we are working with the WSL and supporting events that are being held in Indonesia,” Soesilo said on Sunday, as quoted by Kompas.
He added that the government even believes that they can use surfing to draw in more tourists and help achieve the national foreign arrivals target of 20 million for 2018.
“Marine tourism is expected to contribute four million to the target of 20 million foreign tourists. We see that surfing has great potential to become a foreign exchange earner,” Soesilo added.
A great thing about having surfers as tourists is that they’ll have more lengthy average stay lengths—a figure that is lower with Bali’s biggest source of foreign tourists (i.e. Chinese). Surfers coming all the way from Hawaii or California are going to stay more than just 2-3 days on average, says Soesilo.
“Just imagine, if four million tourists come on average and spend US$1,000, there will be US$4 billion coming in through the marine tourism sector,” he said.
The Keramas Bali Pro is being live-streamed by WSL, so you can watch the competitors ripping even if you can’t make it all the way to Gianyar.
Previously called the Corona Bali Pro, this year is the first time the competition is running under its new name, where “Pro” has been replaced with “Protected.”
Keramas marks the start of an environmentally-focused initiative, aiming to tackle the threat of marine plastic pollution.
The changes in the event will run deeper than just a name update and will include aspects like beach clean-ups, educational talks, and the use of eco-friendly products.
Let’s hope the government takes notes and commits just as hard to plastic pollution problem-solving as it already has to raking in more foreign arrivals.