BALI, Indonesia – Travel agents in Bali have seen increasing demand from foreign tourists to provide spiritual tourism packages, an association said Saturday.
Bali was rapidly becoming popular as a spiritual tourism destination, as evidenced by itinerary requests to travel agents from groups of foreign tourists, said Bagus Sudibya, deputy chairman of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies in Bali (ASITA Bali).
“Most of the groups are from Australia, the US, Japan and Europe. They usually regularly do activities like yoga or meditation,” he said, on the sidelines of a discussion on spiritual tourism in Sanur.
The association estimated that the percentage of travel agents organizing spiritual tourism packages was around 10 percent, while the percentage of tourists coming to Bali to enjoy spiritual activities was roughly 5 percent of all incoming foreign tourists.
Within a month, some travel agents handle three or four groups of between 10 to 15 people, and the number shows an upward trend, Sudibya said.
“This shows that spiritual tourism has potential to be developed in Bali, and most importantly, it could contribute to improving conditions in Bali as this kind of tourism is more qualified than mass tourism.”
According to Sudibya, travel agents have also been more intensely offering spiritual tourism packages, without waiting for demand. The market has responded positively, due to the growing number of people looking to find inner peace and happiness through self-healing amid the problems in their lives.
“Tourists who join a spiritual tourism package usually look for quiet, secluded places to do meditation. We can recommend some places, but they can also plan which places they want to visit, then we can facilitate them.”
Places like Kintamani, Besakih Temple and Pucak Mangu Temple in Pelaga are among their favorite places, where they may find a strong “spiritual vibration”. There are also some tourists who request night visits to Tanah Lot Temple as it is much quieter when the hordes of day-time visitors have left.
“We arrange the packages by adjusting them to suit their daily habits, like eating only organic food. Most of them are vegetarian,” Sudibya said.
He added that such groups often did yoga or meditation in the morning before having breakfast, as well as in the afternoon. The groups also held discussions, inviting people with spiritual backgrounds to talk to them.
I Gde Pitana Brahmananda, head of tourism development at the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry, said that spiritual tourism should be developed in accordance with the local culture.
“Spiritual tourism in Bali has a combination of cultural and religious aspects. It has been running well so far.”
Tourists coming to Bali for spiritual activities bring greater positive impact to the island. “They don’t simply look for sun, sea, sand and sex. They search for inner peace that they find in Bali’s ambiance. They are usually more educated and more friendly to the environment, thus contributing to better and more sustainable tourism.”
Agung Prana, a noted figure in sustainable tourism, added that developing spiritual tourism in Bali was part of the process to redefine and reposition the island’s industry from mass tourism to quality tourism.