Thousands of visitors flock to Bali each year to take in the island's natural beauty, but a rapid increase in tourist numbers and associated development could also have a damaging effect on the natural environment.
To reduce the negative environmental impact caused by high visitor numbers, eco-conscious travel operators and local officials on the island are currently expanding their efforts to improve provisions for waste and water management outside the main tourist areas, as well as developing new approaches for sustainable tourism development at a local level.
As more visitors seek out genuine Balinese culture in the many quaint, traditional villages located across the island, more funds are being injected into local communities to cater for this demand. The development of new parking areas, public bathrooms and improvement of village roads are all part of this development, which is also designed to keep environmental impact to a minimum.
According to the Jakarta Post, since 2009 the Indonesian government has injected approximately US$1.3 million into the development of Balinese villages as eco-tourism sites. The people that live in the small local communities on Bali are now provided with training workshops so they can develop the skills required to facilitate the needs of international visitors.
The moves are part of a wider strategy to encourage tourists to visit areas away from main and still rapidly developing beach zones. A research team from Indonesia’s Udayana University found that many tourists from developed countries actually prefer to visit locations of natural beauty that are well preserved and protected. This has inspired a programme to develop a model eco-tourism village, which will provide an example for other villages across the island to follow.
By promoting natural attractions, the Indonesian government also hopes to preserve Bali’s natural assets, including the island's mangrove forests, varied eco-systems and rich wildlife. This, combined with a village based tourism model will, it is hoped, increase the island's diverse appeal while at the same time preserving its cultural and natural heritage.