Regardless of whether it is Russians behaving badly in Bali or others, the Indonesian government appears prepared to implement rigid restrictions to combat these incidents.
Bali is a tourism hotspot — with its beautiful beaches, tropical climate and lush scenery.
And ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the vacation paradise has seen an influx of Russians and Ukranians escaping the war.
“Why these two countries? Because they are at war so they flock here,” Bali Governor Wayan Koster told a news conference in March, according to a CNN story.
Over 50,000 Russians arrived in Bali after its post-Covid-19 reopening in March 2022, and more than 22,000 more followed suit this January, along with more than 2,000 Ukranians.
In March, authorities in Bali, which is an Indonesian province, called for an end to Indonesia’s visa on arrival policy for Russian and Ukrainian citizens, emphasizing tourist misbehavior.
“Bali has long-since had a reputation for being a laid back destination where hedonistic tourism is tolerated,” Director of Check-in Asia Gary Bowerman said. “Bad tourism behavior has had a cumulative impact over the years. Local people are wary of tourists who make public shows of being disrespectful to local customs and communities, and it causes friction.”
Bowerman added that many of these issues in Bali right now had already existed long before the pandemic, but have been amplified after a few years of limited travel.
He cited instances of tourists disregarding mask regulations or riding vehicles such as motorbikes or scooters without helmets as among some of the other examples of misbehavior the Balinese government is cracking down on.
Instances of drunkenness, public nudity and disrespecting sacred Balinese sites have become repeated patterns of behavior on the island, even before 2023.
“The magnifying glass on Asian holiday destinations like Bali is stronger right now because of the developing context of a post-Covid recovery,” Bowerman said. “Bali’s authorities have responded with statements about scooter bans and a tourism tax and they have deported a few tourists as well but none of those actions seem to be deterring those who wish to behave poorly from doing so.”
Many Ukrainians in Bali have responded with consternation to the news that Indonesia will potentially end its visa-on-arrival policy for Russian and Ukrainian tourists, claiming the vast majority of incidents of tourists behaving poorly can be tied to some Russian tourists.
“(Bali is) a safe place for Ukrainians,” said one Ukrainian named Dmytro, according to the CNN story. “Ukrainians respect Balinese law and culture. Russians are the second largest tourist group in Bali and if you read the news, you’ll see how often it is Russians breaking local laws and disrespecting Balinese culture and traditions.”
Regardless of who is responsible, the Indonesian government appears prepared to implement rigid restrictions to combat these misconduct incidents.
Bowerman also said that one of the primary issues surrounding the situation in Bali is the reach and impact of social media in creating controversy to boost followers and engagement.
“The more that Balinese authorities respond with deterministic public statements and proposed strategies and the media continues to follow the trail, the more influencers will feel emboldened to further disrespect local norms, rules and culture,” Bowerman said. “It’s becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.”