March 15, 2023
JAKARTA – Responding to reports of bad behavior and criminal activities allegedly committed by Russian and Ukrainian tourists, Bali Governor Wayan Koster has proposed to the Foreign Ministry and the Law and Human Rights Ministry that the visa-on-arrival policy for visitors from those two countries be terminated.
“I have written a letter to the ministries requesting that the visa facility be revoked for Russians and Ukrainians,” Koster told a press briefing on Sunday.
Koster made the proposal after receiving complaints about tourists from the two countries, which are currently engaged in a protracted war, misusing their tourist visas to find employment in the popular global tourist destination.
“Why these particular two countries? Currently they are at war, so they come to Bali not only as tourists but also to work,” he said.
During the press conference, Koster and the Bali Immigration Office also announced the deportation of 31 foreign tourists throughout this year, many of whom were Russian, for reasons ranging from overstaying their visas to working illegally.
Reports of rude behavior and alleged criminal activities by Russian and Ukrainian tourists in Bali have made rounds on social media recently.
Last week, a 37-year-old Ukrainian tourist was arrested by the Bali Police for allegedly paying a local Rp 31 million (US$2,005) to illegally obtain an Indonesian identification card and family card (KK) to extend his stay on the island.
On Friday, immigration deported three female Russian tourists for violating their stay permits and allegedly engaging in commercial sex work in Bali, according to the director general for immigration.
Netizens in Bali have also acted as whistleblowers, uploading videos of tourists violating traffic rules and behaving rudely toward police personnel.
Reining in rowdiness
The Bali administration has been clamping down against international tourists who violate Indonesian laws or local customs and is planning to ban international tourists
from renting motorbikes following allegations of rampant traffic violations by foreign tourists. Bali, Koster said, would soon implement the ban.
The Bali Police have reported 171 traffic violations committed by foreigners on the island in the past week, with violations ranging from not wearing helmets to using fake license plates.
In January, the Bali administration also announced a plan to limit tourist access to the island’s mountains, saying tourism there was jeopardizing their sacredness.
Balinese Hindus believe that mountains are sacred and that any negative activity there could be spiritually harmful. Local villagers hold a special ritual whenever a significant issue occurs, believing it to cleanse the area.
In 2022, a Canadian actor danced naked at the top of the central Mount Batur in Bangli regency, angering people who lived nearby. In 2021, a viral three-minute video showing a Russian couple having sex on the top of Mount Batur also sparked outrage among Balinese.
Koster said on Sunday that Bali authorities had formed a special task force to monitor tourists who were found to have engaged in “unhealthy acts”, adding that he did not want rowdy tourists to “tarnish the image of Bali tourism in the eyes of the international community”.
“This is a warning for all foreign tourists in Bali to follow the rules in Indonesia and to respect Balinese culture,” he said. “Yes, we need tourism [to grow], but we need high-quality, dignified tourism. We don’t want [tourists to commit] any act that can degrade Bali, which is our national pride.”
Recovery and resistance
The clampdown against tourists has come amid the government’s efforts to attract more foreign travelers to help the pandemic-battered tourism sector recover.
Earlier this year, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo instructed the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry and the Transportation Ministry to focus specifically on attracting tourists from China, India and Russia, as demand to visit Indonesia from these three countries was very high.
Data from the immigration office shows that between January and March this year, a total of 43,622 Russians landed in Bali.
In 2022, 59,854 Russians arrived in Bali. Tourism minister Sandiaga Uno said the government would not allow efforts to cultivate tourism to get in the way of preventing behaviors that violated the law or cultural norms.
“We’re very open to [international] tourists, and we provided red carpets for them, but they have to abide by all Indonesian laws and norms. We need to create a tourism ecosystem that is safe and comfortable for all, especially for the locals,” Sandiaga wrote on Instagram on Thursday.
The secretary of the Ukrainian embassy in Jakarta, Svitlana Kovtun, told The Jakarta Post that the embassy was currently studying the Bali administration’s plan to end the visa-on-arrival program for Ukrainians and would announce its position in a press briefing on Tuesday.
The Russian embassy in Jakarta was not immediately available for comment when contacted by the Post.