Escapism: How to Reduce Bali Road Traffic (a Theory?)

radit mahindro
4 min readJan 4, 2023

The traffic in Bali is slowly becoming bad (again). At first, traffic jam seems like a huge problem in Bali because it is visible to our naked eyes. But rather than just complaining about this, what about coming up with an idea! To start this train of thoughts, I will just put some raw and simple stats below.

Total Bali population (in hundred):
• 2015: 4,148,4
• 2016: 4,202,4
• 2017: 4,256,0
• 2018: 4,309,2
• 2019: 4,362,1

Private motorbikes in Bali:
• 2015: 3,015,287 bikes
• 2016: 3,184,947 bikes
• 2017: 3,337,326 bikes
• 2018: 3,516,415 bikes
• 2019: 3,718,636 bikes

Private cars in Bali:
• 2015: 350,351 cars
• 2016: 371,972 cars
• 2017: 396,680 cars
• 2018: 422,838 cars
• 2019: 449,541 cars

The growth is roughly 160,000 motorbikes and 20,000 cars registered annually in Bali. With around 50,000 births registered on the island annually, each baby is having more than three cars, and half motorbike. Quite a staggering stats!

But building public transportation system will not be enough. There are more problematic issues on the island such as water crisis. Vice and EXO Foundation said that 60% of Bali’s watersheds are declared dried. Bali’s biggest body of fresh water, Lake Buyan, had dropped 3.5 meters and aquifer in the southern region of the island is fast approaching a point of no return as sea water seeps into the fresh water reserves.

So, now we know that the title of this writing is a clickbait (not necessarily about road traffic only). The bigger problem is overtourism!

Road traffic in Ubud, festive season 2022

International tourist arrivals in Bali:
• 2015: 4,001,835
• 2016: 4,927,937
• 2017: 5,697,739
• 2018: 6,070,473
• 2019: 4,652,636

Average length of stay of international tourist in Bali (all hotel categories):
• 2015: 3.16 nights
• 2016: 3.17 nights
• 2017: 3.21 nights
• 2018: 3.17 nights
• 2019: N/A

Domestic tourist arrivals in Bali:
• 2015: 7,147,100
• 2016: 8,643,680
• 2017: 8,735,633
• 2018: 9,757,991
• 2019: 10,545,039

Average length of stay of domestic tourist in Bali (all hotel categories):
• 2015: 2.86 nights
• 2016: 2.34 nights
• 2017: 2.34 nights
• 2018: 2.72 nights
• 2019: N/A

As of end of 2019, there are 37,868 rooms in 4 and 5-star hotels, and 20,902 rooms in 3, 2, and 1-star hotels in Bali (35.5%). On top of that, there are 54,184 rooms in non-rated hotels in Bali.

With a lot of tourists coming to the island pre-covid, business people are expecting the numbers to slowly matching 2019’s figures. Some of them are even expecting more, I believe. And more tourists means more energy consumption: water, electricity, food, drinks, fuel for transportation, and fresh air!

To reduce overtourism, some destinations come up with a quick solution: imposing tourist tax. This flat-fee tax is usually put on top of the nightly hotel rate and is collected by the hotels on behalf of the government. Barcelona charge between EUR 4 — EUR 5 a night per tourist and Venice charge EUR 5 a night per tourist (terms and conditions apply). Thailand is planning to impose EUR 9 a night per tourist. Some other destinations bring this to a more extreme level: Siem Reap charge USD 200 a night per room (double), and Bhutan charge USD 200 a night per tourist.

Before the pandemic, Bali welcome 15 million tourists (international and domestic combined), 20–30% of them are staying in 3-star hotels or lower category hotels, this is around 3 — 4.5 million tourists. Let’s say the government is imposing a tourist tax of USD 15 a night per tourist, the prediction would probably be as follows:
• Lost of tourists: let’s put 5 million lost, mostly those who stay at 3-star hotels or lower category
• Remaining tourists: 10 million
• Revenue from tourist tax: USD 15 (a night) x 10 million (number of tourists) x 3 (average length of stay) = USD 450 million a year!

What should we do with all those money? I’m not sure. Perhaps preparing a solid urban planning could be a good priority. This includes hygiene and sanitary, health and educational infrastructure, water and renewable energy, and public transport system. Next will be ecology and cultural learning in school, tourism and hospitality education, and regulation. Or we can simply start by fixing the messy power lines and cables in Batu Belig and Berawa!

Will USD 450 million be enough to offset the revenue lost from losing 5 million tourists? From hotel point of view, it will surely cover the lost from the 10% government tax. I’m not so sure if it will cover the lost of tax from another sectors such as tour, shops, restaurants, and spas. But do we really need the islands to have endless openings of standalone hotels, shops, restaurants, and spas with competing low price? What about offsetting this with two or three integrated natural and / or cultural parks that includes museum, gallery, discussion space, performance stage, etc? It could absorb a lot of workforce while also giving stronger reasons for us to learn and understand the island better.

Data source:
BPS Provinsi Bali
Disparda Bali