China’s tourism boom prompts fears that Bali is being ‘sold cheap’

“I can’t accurately say how many of the 1.4 million tourists [in 2017] were part of the [zero-dollar] packages, because we don’t have the statistics, but it was significant, very significant.”

Sudiarto says Chinese tourists used to fit three categories: “Low, middle, high. Now there are maybe seven, there are segments higher than high, below low. Now there’s ‘very low’, special request.”

It’s that lowest category that is a concern, Sudiarto says, because high volumes of tourists and poor-quality tour packages could drive down Bali’s reputation as a high-end tourist destination.

Latex, batik and agar wood products are some of the more popular items being sold to Chinese tourists but, Agung says, sometimes the products being sold aren’t actually made in Indonesia.

“Like latex: why would Chinese come all the way here to buy pillows? Because they were informed that Indonesia is a producer of rubber, when the products are really from China. That’s one of their sales tricks,” he says.