The idyllic island of Bali has long been a bucket-list destination for travelers but a proposed alcohol ban could see tourists seek alternative destinations.
Situated to the east of the Indonesian capital Jakarta and north of Australia, Bali is one of the most visited destinations in Southeast Asia. Famous for its diverse landscapes, which includes lush rainforests, dramatic mountains and pearlescent beaches, it’s a liberal, tropical paradise within the more Islamic-fundamentalist country of Indonesia. However, recent discussions about banning the sale of alcohol on the island could send it into turmoil.
Why is the ban being considered?
The idea of the ban is not a new one in Indonesia, but it is one that has recently gained some traction in the Indonesian media, thanks to the support of different political parties in the country. Two Islamist political parties – the Prosperous Justice Party and the United Development Party – have been joined by the nationalist party Gerindra in promoting the prohibition bill and sparking the debate on the issue.
Indonesia has form when it comes to limiting alcohol sales. In 2015, they banned the sale of alcohol in small “mom and pop” type stores, and the city of Aceh has completely prohibited the sale and consumption of alcohol following its move to embrace sharia law, the Islamic legal code. Previous calls to ban alcohol in the country had listed the Hindu-majority island of Bali to be exempt from bans, but discussion surrounding the most recent iteration of the ban have yet to clarify if this would be the safe.
Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, with 12.7% of the world’s Muslims inhabiting the country. Whilst Bali may be an anomaly in that it is a majority-Hindu province, Islam has a huge influence on the governance of the country, and is the key driving factor behind the potential ban.
Crime and Punishment
In order to effectively police such a ban, strong punishments have been put forward for would-be offenders. Consumption of alcohol could bring about a fine of 50 million rupiah ($3500 USD) and a three year prison sentence, whilst anyone found guilty of producing alcohol could face a severe fine of 1 billion rupiah ($71000 USD) and ten years behind bars.
In Aceh, where prohibition is very much in effect, those found guilty of flouting the anti-alcohol laws face even more draconian punishments. Those found to have consumed alcohol can expect to face between six to nine lashings with a cane, which is a punishment in line with what is suggested in the Qur’an.
Tourism in Bali
Prior to the pandamic, tourism in Bali was on the rise. In 2019, the island saw a 3.37% rise in foreign tourists to its shores. However, todays reality makes for grim reading. Following the travel restrictions that have been brought on by the pandemic, tourism in Bali has dropped 95%, leaving the province reeling. International tourists are currently banned from travelling to Bali, yet the airport remains open to domestic travellers.
The tourism sector accounts for 80% of Bali’s revenue sources, and as a result the province has become the worst-affected of Indonesia’s 34 provinces. With the ban on alcohol likely to have an overwhelmingly negative affect on the number of future holidaymakers, it’s likely that Bali’s economic woes will continue even after the borders open up to international travellers.
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