February 26, 2024

Travel In Bali

Travel & Tour Tips

Vlogger Nas Daily calls Bali ‘whitest island in Asia’, angers Indonesians but gets tourism official’s support

Vlogger Nas Daily calls Bali ‘whitest island in Asia’, angers Indonesians but gets tourism official’s support

WHY THE FOCUS ON SKIN COLOUR?

For some viewers who have seen the video, the framing of “white people” as a pull factor for Bali was already problematic.

Many comments on Mr Yassin’s social media channels questioned the “meaning” behind his video’s focus, asking: “What’s so interesting about having white people in (a) certain region?”

They pointed out that Bali is a popular tourist destination in general and that there are also many Asian tourists there.

As for others, it was the conflation of the Western world with white people that bothered them.

Throughout Mr Yassin’s video when he refers to “the Western world”, there is an overwhelming interest in white people.

The one black man he featured was relegated to a comedic device, made to act confused as the vlogger talked about how “white” Bali is.

Mr Yassin later uses another frame of the same man as he jokingly narrates: “(It’s) no wonder why so many white — and non-white — people call this island their home.”

On YouTube, one user commented: “If I called a black man a non-white person, I think I’d get smacked.”

For Southeast Asian and Indonesian social media users, especially, the focus on white people brought up many unpleasant emotions.

The only two Asians shown in Mr Yassin’s video were relegated to side roles as faces of Bali’s hospitality sector.

One Instagram user remarked: “The way the locals are represented as (the faces of) ‘Indonesian hospitality’ is nice, but it has implications of subservience in the way the images are put together.”

Another Indonesian user from Java, who lived in Bali for a couple of months during the Covid-19 pandemic, wrote on YouTube: “Bali is beautiful… But please don’t make the locals look like (the) Westerners’ servants in this video.”

Others called for the video to be deleted because it was “traumatic” to watch.

One Instagram user from Bali wrote: “Watching this feels like a throwback (to) when we were colonised.”

Another agreed: “We (are) not overreacting. For 365 years, our great-grandparents fought to (the) death against colonialism.

“(It was) surely not for any foreigners to come again 80 years (later) and call our homeland (the) ‘whitest village’.”

Even beyond the focus on skin colour, they noted, the video simply showcased a “shallow” and “problematic” view of Bali.

GLOSSES OVER INEQUALITY, OVER-TOURISM

One Balinese summed it up in an Instagram comment, saying: “We don’t need more tourists — we need more organisations helping us to educate businesses to be more conscious, to grow (and) not over-exploit.

“Currently, locals are underpaid, nature is over-exploited, and tourists act like saviours by just paying US$4 (S$5.34) in a restaurant and disobeying the law because they think they help the poor by being here.

“Have you ever wondered why you pay so little for stuff you normally wouldn’t pay that little (for) elsewhere?”

The user added that Mr Yassin’s video showcased restaurants frequented by tourists in the popular resort village of Canggu, and was not representative of Bali as a whole.

Many Balinese also chimed in to allege that many foreigners are living and working in Bali illegally, profiting from the “affordable” lifestyle there without applying for work visas or paying taxes. On the other hand, most natives work hard to “barely make ends meet”, they added.

Besides overstaying, “irresponsible tourists” also contribute to the over-exploitation of Bali’s natural environment and “hundreds of scooter accidents” due to reckless driving, not wearing helmets and drink-driving, the online users claimed.

Another Instagram user from Bali said: “To make such ‘content’ is just plain ignorant and honestly disrespectful… why not make content that educates future tourists and that will help the locals?”

Even followers from other countries found the video to be in bad taste.

“This seems like a video talking about gentrification without addressing it,” one top comment on Instagram read, referring to the process by which a place changes from being a poor area to a richer one where people from a higher social class live.

In response, Mr Yassin said that he had thought about this for a long time but eventually decided that for him, the “net effect” of tourism on domestic industries is positive.

“It’s up to local governments to decide when enough is enough, not us,” he replied.

Critics disagreed, arguing that tourism and gentrification are two different things. Moreover, as one Instagram user said: “Many governments do not treat or care for their people as they should.”

A YouTube user from India’s state of Goa said: “As someone who lives in a state endorsed and known for its tourism… I myself sometimes feel alien to my locality because it looks like a different country.

“It’s an unsettling feeling when you have to abide by their rules in your own village.”

Other online users also said that they had experienced similar situations in other parts of the world such as Mexico and the state of Hawaii in the United States.

DIFFERENCES IN PERCEPTION

Following the flood of criticisms, Mr Yassin commented on Instagram on Monday, which appeared to be directed at those denouncing the racial angle of the video.

“‘White people living in Bali angry at brown man for telling the world white people live in Bali.’ Thank you all for the comments,” he wrote sarcastically.

“I will make another video titled ‘Let’s talk about race’ and I think it’ll be a great conversation for all of us to have.”

Again, fans and social media users were disappointed by his perceived doubling down on the “insensitive” video and felt that he had missed the point of their feedback.

One reply went: “‘Indonesians angry at tone-deaf influencer for telling the world to be okay with the gentrification happening in Bali.’ There. Fixed it for you.”

However, despite the public outcry, Indonesian news portal Detikcom reported on Tuesday that Mr Tjokorda Bagus Pemayun, head of the Bali Tourism Agency, had stepped forward to defend the video.

“In the video, he is flattering Bali, such as (when he shows) Bali is green,” the tourism official said on Monday. “This is actually good for the promotion of (tourism in Bali).”

Mr Tjokorda said that the controversy on social media is due to differences in perception. He does not believe that the video will have any negative impact on Balinese tourism.

“There are no complaints (about Bali in the video) and I see no one vilifying Bali as many (social media users) have said,” he added.

He emphasised that all tourists, both foreign and domestic, are welcome to visit Bali as long as they abide by regulations there. He also hopes that promotions by tourists such as Mr Yassin can help to boost the industry.