March 1, 2024

Travel In Bali

Travel & Tour Tips

The Selling & Buying of Heads in Bali

The Selling & Buying of Heads in Bali

With the ongoing return of Mainland Chinese Tourists to Bali and the rest of Indonesia, the insidious problem of selling off booked tourists, termed in Indonesian as the purchase and sale of foreign tourist heads (jual-beli kepala), is once again rearing its ugly head.

The Provincial Secretary of Bali, Dewa Made Indra, told Tribun-Bali.com that the re-emergence of jual-beli kepala represents an unjust and unfair condition threatening the Island’s tourism industry because it only profits one party to a double or multi-party transaction.

Jual-beli kepala happens when disreputable and unethical overseas agents serving the PRC market offer travel bookings in Bali at rates that are non-sustainable and often insufficient to cover the actual cost of the parts of the travel package. Those purchasing and manipulating these “booked travel packages” do so due to an urgent need for cash flow. To recoup resulting cash shortfalls, the local agent often rearranges the tour components into cheaper elements and then compels visitors to only shop and eat at establishments offering enormous commission levels. The good purchased and the food eaten by the hapless Chinese visitors may need to be revised, with the commissions making all the difference for the unethical local operator.

On Wednesday, 22 February 2023, Dewa Made Indra said: “Competition between travel industry members is a normal part of the business environment. But, in the end, a business must be fair and profitable to all concerned and not seek to inflict damage on either the buyer or seller.” 

Indra said the Province desires Indonesia to sell and promote quality tourism that benefits the people’s economy in Bali. The problem of “jual-beli kepala” disappeared during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the lack of Chinese tourists. Indra added: “Now the problem has returned. But this development should not be allowed to develop and grow an ‘ecosystem’ that is not conducive to Bali tourism.”

Following a meeting to discuss preparations for the expected onslaught of Chinese tourists to Bali, the Deputy-Governor of Bali, Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati (“Cok Ace“), warned that the overall Chinese market to Bali is wrongly seen as a mass market dominating Bali’s tourism arrivals. “So,” Cok Ace added, “we have to prepare everything, from the regulatory point of view to other supports, so that the visitor targets set by the central and regional governments can be realized.”

The Indonesian Guide Association in Bali (HPI-Bali) has joined the lively discussion on “jual – beli kepala.” The Chairman of HPI-Bali, I Nyoman Nuarta, complained that the practice has existed since long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, HPI is joining efforts to find a solution to prevent this practice in 2023 and beyond.

The Governor has instructed the Head of Tourism for Bali to convene a gathering of representatives of the Mandarin market and various other stockholders. On 21 February, a discussion group discussed how to find a solution to buying and selling heads in the Chinese market.

The government urges all tourism stakeholder organizations, including HPI and the Indonesian Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel agents (ASITA), to avoid involvement in unethical practices aimed at Chinese market travelers. Those found to be involved in such practices are threatened with possible closure and cancellation of operating licenses. 

Nuarta, the chairman of HPI, said enforcement teams would be positioned to supervise the services provided to Chinese travelers to prevent “jual-beli kepala practices” to safeguard the reputation of the Island of Bali. 

HPI reports that their organization has 200 Chinse-language licensed guides to serve the coming surge of Mainland Chinese visitors.

Should the number of Mandarin-speaking guides prove insufficient, HPI has English-speaking guides in reserve to accompany and provide translation services for Chinese-speaking group leaders traveling from the PRC with groups.

While Mainland Chinese tourists are returning to Bali, the total number is limited by the current carrying capacity of charter flights. Once regularly scheduled flights between China and Bali resume, the number of PRC visitors is expected to surge dramatically. 

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