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Balinese locals turn against tourists after dangerous act leads to deportation calls

The man's erratic behaviour on a motorbike on a Kuta Beach street was caught on camera.

Locals in Bali are pleading with authorities to blacklist a tourist over his highway hijinx in a further sign Balinese people have hit their threshold with misbehaving travellers. The calls come just a week after an Aussie man was pronounced brain dead following a scooter crash in Bali.

“Balinese are naturally friendly, kind and hospitable but now they've got to this kind of tipping point where the friendliness and hospitality of people has been overcome by this sense that they don't have any control over their wellbeing,” Joseph Cheer, a professor of Sustainable Tourism and Heritage at Western Sydney University, told Yahoo News Australia.

In the latest clip to come out of the holiday hotspot, a shirtless tourist in shorts can be seen riding a scooter along Kuta Beach walking street —the main thoroughfare through Bali’s most popular resort area in the south of the island. He begins by pulling the handlebars up to perform a wheelie before darting in and out of traffic along the busy road.

The man on a scooter doing a wheelie (left) and moving in front of traffic (right).
The man was filmed doing a wheelie before darting in and our of traffic in Kuta, Bali. Source: Instagram/denpasar.viral

The video has since sparked outcry from furious locals over the dangerous behaviour after being shared on social media. “Bule without respect and education, out and blacklisted!” one person wrote on the Instagram post, using the word for ‘foreigner’ which Professor Cheer said can be seen as “a pejorative or a kind of slur on the person”.

“Arrest and put in jail in Indonesia,” another said. “A year after that, deportation and blacklisted to enter Indonesia.” Others begged authorities to take action “for the sake of Bali tourism” and the “comfort and safety of the road user community”, while someone else criticised the police’s lack of action.

“As long as our law enforcement officers are not firm, they [tourists] will continue to be like that,” they wrote. “If the police can be firm... as in his country, then they [tourists] will not dare to do all sorts of things.”

What has changed?

While the Indonesian government has spent the last year trying to crack down on unruly tourists who think they can let loose on holiday without facing consequences, it's the people on the ground who have really reached the end of their tether.

Professor Cheer believes a number of reasons have resulted in this change in attitude towards tourists. “One, tourist numbers have intensified in the last decade,” he said. “So it's not like there's only a few tourists now. There's a lot of tourists.

He adds that there's a lot more expatriates or foreigners not only visiting Bali, but living there. "That has had an impact on the lifestyle in Bali and the cost of living for regular Balinese," Cheer explains. "Prices are going up. Traffic is intensifying. And then on top of that you throw in this misbehaviour of people and it's pushing them over the edge.

“There’s this kind of sense that Bali is being consumed by foreigners at the cost of the wellbeing of local people, and a lot of it has intensified since Covid.”

What about the Indonesian crackdown?

Authorities have reinforced laws and introduced stricter penalties, as well as set up a taskforce to monitor for illegal activity, and a hotline to dob in a tourist. But despite the threats, the warnings appear to be falling on many deaf ears.

“People's ideas of Bali have been shaped by this sense that you can go to Bali and anything goes, and I think that's stuck hard and fast,” said Professor Cheer, who is also the Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum Global Future Council for the Future of Sustainable Tourism.

“While we might see a lot of these discussions online and people protesting about it [the crackdown], the vast majority of people are probably oblivious to all of this, and they might say, ‘oh you know, it’s just a laugh’.”

The only thing the crackdown appears to be doing, is firing up the Balinese people. “When they see authorities saying, ‘We've had enough of this’, and formalising this sense of dissatisfaction about tourist behaviour, it almost gives them a licence to say, ‘exactly, we don't want this anymore’,” Professor Cheer explained.

“Balinese have been emboldened to react against this kind of behaviour because they see the authorities and society at large doing it, and they also see other foreigners who are doing the right thing, saying, ‘Yeah, this is unacceptable’.”

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