Bikini-clad tourists in Bali shock supermarket shoppers: 'Looks of horror'

Locals were outraged when they saw the women showing 'no respect' for their culture.

A viral video showing three women wearing bikinis in a Bali supermarket has been slammed as proof that tourists still aren’t getting the message while on holiday in a country that's increasingly cracking down on unruly and inappropriate behaviour.

“It seems like the penny hasn’t quite dropped for many people, despite what the authorities are trying to do in Bali,” Joseph Cheer, a professor of Sustainable Tourism and Heritage at Western Sydney University, told Yahoo News Australia in response to the clip.

“This idea that you can just walk around the main street in your bikini I think was one that Bali kind of tolerated. But they've moved from tolerating behaviour to now demanding appropriate behaviour, which I think is important.”

Tourists wearing bikinis in Bali supermarket
The three young women were filmed wearing only bikinis while food shopping in Bali. Source: Facebook

In the recording, the trio of tourists can be seen queuing up to pay for their groceries at a Seminyak store while only wearing swimwear. “Now I’ve seen it all,” the woman videoing the scene wrote alongside the clip.

“These three shopping in Bintang in g-string bikinis. You should have seen the looks of horror on people’s faces. Where was security,” she continued.

Commenting on the Facebook post, the woman said the British girls had “no respect for Bali and its people’s culture”.

“Their behaviour made a lot of staff in Bintang uncomfortable and shoppers were looking at them shocked,” she said. “I let them know what they were doing was wrong and got told to f*** off, that I was jealous of their bodies.”

She added that her daughter also tried to tell the girls to cover up “and learn about Indonesian culture”, but they argued with her as well. “If they cared they could easily have covered themselves up. They didn’t. Instead, they continued walking around shopping while people looked at them in disgust.”

Bali’s tolerance for tourists is over

The problem, according to Professor Cheer, is that for a long time, tourists have been given a ‘free for all’ and allowed to do whatever they want in Bali, which has “always exercised a very faithful adherence to Hinduism”.

“From an Australian perspective Bali was always one of those places that young people went to as a right of passage to establish their worldviews or to get their travelling licence,” he said.

“But it's like any country. When people travel for the first time they really don't know how to behave properly, especially if you've got a group. The overriding intention is to have a lot of fun, but sometimes that fun comes at the expense of what is the right thing to do in a particular place.”

Authorities are growing increasingly frustrated with unruly tourists and Bali’s tolerance for tawdry behaviour officially coming to an end.

“As the tourist numbers have grown, the pressure on local people to continue to be welcoming and understanding of tourist behaviour has come stretched, as you would expect,” explained Professor Cheer, who is also the Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum Global Future Council for the Future of Sustainable Tourism.

A woman wearing a bikini in a shop in Bali (left) and a woman resting against a tree while naked (right).
Tourists are increasingly being caught doing the wrong thing in Bali. Source: Facebook/Instagram

“Bali is trying to shift away from the tourism model of group travellers coming on package tours, like for hens nights, bucks nights and schoolies, to what they refer to as higher quality tourists,” the professor said. This means tourists who are interested in the culture, food and people, "not just sitting by the pool getting blind drunk and going to a club in Kuta."

But it’s going to take some time, he admits. “This won’t be the last we hear of this behaviour," he said. "But the more they crack down on it, the more it will work to change perceptions in place.”

Tougher penalties are needed

In 2019, a photo of a woman wearing a g-string bikini in a shop in Bali sparked debate after it was shared online. And last year, a social media influencer outraged locals and upset officials in Bali after she was photographed naked by a sacred 700-year-old Balinese tree. A Russian influencer was deported a year earlier for doing the same thing.

While Balinese authorities are increasingly cracking down on antisocial behaviour — with a list of tourist dos and don’ts, a hotline to dob in misbehaving travellers and a special task force to monitor foreigners’ activities — Professor Cheer said they need to keep up the pressure.

“There are penalties in place, but with the enforcement of penalties I think there has been some kind of resistance because you don't want to suddenly have it spread across the world that Bali is not a welcoming place to go to anymore, and it could have an inadvertent impact on what they're trying to do," he said.

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