Bali woos Indian tourists this autumn

The blossoms of the Indonesian island of Bali will add fragrance to the holiday itineraries of several Indians this festival season.

With the number of Indian footfalls growing in the island every year, officials of Indonesia’s culture and tourism ministry, the Bali tourism industry and the Bali chapter of the Pacific-Asia Travel Association (PATA) all expect the number to cross the 22,000 mark in 2008.

At the close of 2007, the number of Indian visitors to Bali stood at 21,909, up 71.27 percent from the previous year, said a communique issued here Friday by the Indonesian culture and tourism ministry.

There has been a steady increase in Indian arrivals to the exotic island. In 2003, the number of Indians who visited Bali was a mere 4,554. The subsequent year, the number logged a quantum jump of 42.03 percent to 6,468 and in 2006, it was 12.792 percent.

The ministry, which is hard-selling the island as a preferred destination to Indian tourists this year, held a colourful cultural roadshow Friday.

The highlight of the marketing show was a traditional dance performance which opened with the Sekar Jagat dance – Sekar in Balinese means flowers and Jagat means the world. Like other welcoming dances, the Sekar Jagat dancers bring flowers with them, which combined along with hand movement, make the flowers come alive. The dancers move in a circle, which is beautiful when seen from above.

It was followed by the religious Topend Tua dance, which tells the story of a grandfather. The dancer illustrates to the audience that as we age someday into old men and women, one of our senses would not work perfectly any longer. The eyes lose power of sight, the hair changes colour and the body emaciates.

The show ended with the Cendrawasih dance, which is woven around the scarce fauna found in the Irian Jaya island. This dance has a green message – it tells the viewers how to protect the environment – through the movements of the playful Cendrawasih bird. The bird is red in colour and attire and winged formations of the dancers make the dance lyrical.

Bali, which was nominated the world’s best island by the International Travel Magazine, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Nestled in the Indonesian archipelago, with a rich tropical wildlife and exotic cultures, it attracts tourists from across the continents.

This year, it hopes to draw at least two million foreign tourists by the year end.

“Interestingly, Balinese is still as rich as it was though it is growing along with globalisation. The Balinese culture has always been related to ‘Tri Hita Karana’ or a tripartite concept that includes spiritual relationship between humans, gods and environment.

‘Owing to many similarities between Bali and India and influence of the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata on the lives of the people in Bali and India, the two places have shared an emotional bond,” the statement issued by the ministry said.

Bali, one of the 17,000-odd islands in Indonesian archipelago, was an old spice trade centre dealing in pepper, cloves, nutmegs, vanilla and cinnamon. India last year ranked 14th in terms of foreign tourists visiting Bali.

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