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Ethical Bali tourism to prevent civil and human rights abuse

I am talking about ethical tourism practiced by the tourist to ensure the money they spend on holiday to and in Bali goes to the Balinese, not the people who suppress and inflict them.

Bali Hotels AssociationThe "Bali Hotels Association" used to call themselves the all telling presumptuous name "Casa Grande" and who for me epitomize the sales & marketing over substance, untenable self-important and too often highly selfish nature of vastly over-rated hotels which do very little for the Balinese, culture or value for money. I believe by avoiding members of the BHA and PATA you will get so much more out of your holiday.

The more I came to know Bali's tourism industry, the more I came to despise it for the cheating anti-Balinese money making machine it really is.

I hope and trust every western tourist who reads this page will agree with what is important, but I believe 75% + will then go on to do exactly what they should not (while loudly professing they did). Sorry, but I consider we live in informed but also selfish times and I ask you please prove me wrong as the Balinese need your help. If nothing else, please do not tell the rest of the world you are being ethical when you are not. If you report to others you went to XYZ hotel and they were 100% Balinese friendly when they were not and you are just saying that to avoid shame, more shame on you because of the pother people who take your word in good faith and at face value. If you can't be ethical in Bali, please shut up or even better don't go there.

Be advised, the current trend of certain anti-Balinese hotels and other travel organizations on their web sites to feature so called sponsorships and / or other paltry charitable projects for example benefiting a single Balinese school child to gain goodwill from potential foreign tourists sickens me. The projects are clearly cheaply conceived and executed, extremely selfish marketing ploys by the very people who oppress the Balinese; do not be taken in by this evil con trick.

So here is my list to ensure you get a great, truly Balinese, truly Bali friendly holiday.

1) Hotel / villa / reservation agent rates that include tax and service.
If you are interested in a hotel or villa in Bali which is offering a nightly rate including tax and service, please make sure they are not stealing this money from the hotel staff and island. The tax and service element for Indonesia is 21%; 10% sales tax, 11% service charge (hotels can legally keep 1% for staff breakages). So if you see a nightly rate of US$121 per night including tax and service, ask the agent or hotel if they are prepared to give you the same rate but without the service element included as this is discretional, because you would like to give the service charge directly to the staff yourself. Also ask them if you can get a full tax receipt which shows they have paid 10% to the tax authority (which goes to public services of course). If they will not do this, they are liars, the rate does not include full tax and service.

2) Ask who the owners of the business are - are they Balinese / based in Bali?
Ask who are the principle directors of the hotel or the companies that own the hotel and then do a search on the Internet to see if they have anything bad against their name. Also ask if any of the directors are members of the Suharto family; remember that thousands of Balinese were murdered by the authorities under Suharto and that his family stands accused of massive corruption (as being where they got their money to build hotels in the first place).

3) Ask what their staff policies are.
Specifically you need to ask the ratio of full time to part time workers (a high temporary ratio indicates minimum wage avoidance), whether directors or senior managers on western salary levels get a share of the service charges (they should not to be fair / legal of course), ask whether the service charge is distributed amongst the staff equally or whether it is pro-rated according to their salary (it should be the former), ask whether they pay staff the minimum wage or more, ask what redundancy and pregnancy schemes they have (or do they just send staff home without pay), ask them what their staff holiday entitlement is.

4) Ask what their environmental policies are.
If all you get back is some garbage about only spraying mosquito chemicals at certain times, asking guests to use towels over 2 days not 1 (but nothing about using eco-friendly detergent) and offering organic tea, they likely are about as environmental as a smoke stack with a degree in marketing.

5) Ask them if they are the subject of any demonstrations, legal action or bad publicity over their location and / or trading methods.
You would be amazed at the number of hotels which the locals despise because they built too close to a sacred temple, got a very contentious building permit or practice other anti-Balinese acts. Hotels such as the Four Seasons Sayan (Ubud), Le Meridien Nirwana and Waka Shorea spring to mind. Also ask them what they do to support the local community.

6) Ask them whether they offer bespoke or 3rd party tours.
Any hotel that offers specialized tours they organize and conduct themselves obviously care about the quality of service their guests receive and this is likely to be reflected across the board.

7) Ask them for their operational licence and tax numbers.
If they will (can) not give you these, run a mile.

8) Do a special Internet search
Do a search on Google or Yahoo for the name of the hotel or villa you are interested in plus the words "warning", "complaint" and "report"; e.g. "warning (hotel name)" to pull up what the sales sites may not want you to read!

9) Ask about the hotel's foreign currency exchange rates!
Whether you book by agent or direct with a hotel, ask about the hotels credit card exchange rate policy; ask if they use the prevailing bank or their own rate (get them to tell you what it is the day you enquire and then compare that with the true exchange rate on Yahoo). You see, when you come to check out, even if you paid for your room up front, you will have something to pay such as food bills, spa treatments, etc. right? Many hotels in Bali (and elsewhere) make extra profit by defrauding guests who pay their check-out final bill by credit card. What dishonest hotels do is charge you in Indonesian Rupiah for a hotel bill calculated in dollars at a fraudulent exchange rate (where they make money). Hotels often make an extra 10% or more; do not let hotels who do this get away with it. If they fix their exchange rate, get the cash in Indonesian Rupiah from a local bank. Better still, avoid hotels who cheat their guests like this altogether.

Finally, your own conduct. It never ceased to amaze me how badly many western tourists treat the Balinese and Indonesians. Please do not swear at hawkers even if they are like flies. Please make sure your service charge gets to all of the hotel staff and in equal proportion; please do not let one person get everything and the poor cleaners, gardeners and others get nothing. If you want to help the poor in Bali do not give blindly; unfortunately many people run sympathy scams which net them money well intentioned westerners give for the poor. If you go out into the real Bali you will meet real Balinese; the real areas are not just more authentic and warmer but also poorer. Gifts of pencils and small items with your own country's / culture's images on them are always gratefully received by the rural schools, but please make sure the children receive them; school teachers in Bali are not always the caring community members you would expect. Please do not buy fake goods as it is a fact terrorist groups make money from counterfeit goods. Please report any corruption, fraud or extortion you see to sites like Fugly Bali; do not let the thieves keep their public pride.

If you can do this and act accordingly by not rewarding the cheats and thieves in Indonesia, God bless you, you have helped yourselves get a better, more genuine holiday, you have helped the Balinese people and you have helped Bali.

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© Copyright 2006. Mark Austin / Nasty Bali Org. All Rights Reserved.