Akou, tourist information staff | Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
January 27, 2010
Akou is originally from Java but has been living and working in Bali for over 10 years. He works at a tourist information service booth where he advises tourists on activities around the island and sells, plans, and organizes tours.
Kuta was one of the first beaches to open to tourism in Bali. The area is filled with hotels, restaurants, tour operators, guesthouses, bars, night clubs, vendors all catered for tourists.
LPT: What do you think about tourism in Kuta?
Akou: Tourism in Kuta is really important for us, like for our business, you know. And we really hope many tourists will keep coming to Bali again and again. Because that’s really good for our business and also we want Bali to be more famous than before. All around the world people know about Bali but the thing is, some tourists are still a little scared about, what you call it, terrorists and stuff. When people are hustling on the street, that’s actually really bad for us (local people) too.
LPT: Can you tell me more about that?
Akou: The local people (who hustle) are bad because, you know, some tourists don’t like it when people are hustling them. You know, like asking for transportation, taxi and stuff like that and trying to sell things. But sometimes I understand too, because they just want to make a living, you know. They’re trying to make money and do some business. But sometimes it’s really bad because some tourists get pissed off, angry and they don’t understand it.
LPT: So what should tourists do then? If people are following them and they’re getting hustled, what’s the best way to deal with it?
Akou: To deal with them, just say “no thanks” or something or it is better to just keep quiet. That’s better, just keep quiet and keep walking. Don’t try to ask how much it’s going to cost or touch what they’re trying to sell.
And also at night some tourists get drunk and walk on the street. That’s really dangerous, actually. But some tourists, they still want to walk around the beach, but it’s because they’re on holiday.
Every country has criminals, you know. In Bali, most of the people when they’re drunk get into some trouble.
LPT: What are some negative impacts of tourism on Kuta?
Akou: The negative impact…sometimes…you know, there’s a big difference between Eastern and Western culture, right? You know, it’s bad, when tourists are kissing on the street because in Eastern culture, we’re not supposed to do that.
LPT: So even on Kuta it’s still like that?
Akou: Still, yeah. Some, some kids, if I can still call them that, like 16 or 15 years old, they’ll see it and want to know more about it and practice it, you know.
LPT: Local kids?
Akou: Yeah, practicing with their boyfriend or girlfriend, like it’s a party. Sometimes I cannot accept that.
LPT: What about the way people dress on the beach?
Akou: About the dress, that’s fine when they’re on the beach and they want to get a suntan and stuff. So, you know, that doesn’t matter for me. My thing is as long they wear bikinis and swimsuits on the beach, it is ok. But on the street, for me, that is not good, you know.
LPT: So if local people see tourists kissing on the street, they’ll be embarrassed?
Akou: Yeah, that’s right.
LPT: But do local people tell these tourists what you should do and shouldn’t do here? Do you think tourists know what they’re not suppose to do here?
Akou: They’ll know if they read about Bali or Indonesian culture, right? Because we are like Eastern culture and most of Indonesia is a Muslim country. So I think they know about it before they come to Bali. They read about it maybe by on the internet and what cultures we have. So I think they know it.
So, you know, it’s really bad if we tell the tourists about what they shouldn’t do because we worry they will be like, “Why that’s not your business!” You know, we don’t know how to tell them. We don’t know how to tell them about it. But, you know, that’s really bad, actually.
LPT: Do you think putting up a sign would help?
Akou: That is a good idea but for now, we don’t have that kind of a thing – putting up a sign and stuff, we don’ have that. Tourists can do whatever they want, it’s like that.
LPT: So how do you think we can make tourism better in Kuta?
Akou: Like how to make tourists come back for their holiday?
LPT: For example, you talked about some good things and not so good things about tourism. So how can we help tourists understand the local culture better? What are some ideas?
Akou: We should show them our culture and tell them what Eastern culture is like. So there’s a place to do this thing and there’s a place for other things. At least we can tell them why on the internet or in a book or something like that. That’s what we want.
LPT: Yeah. That’s great.
Akou: So also, what we want is for tourists to come to Bali again. And don’t worry about the terrorists. I’m Muslim but I do not like the terrorist thing.
LPT: What do you think about the Bali bombings? Were you here when they happened?
Akou: When the first bombing happened, I was in Java. I went back to Java like four days before it happened. When that happened it was really bad for us and bad for our economy. It was really bad.
But for the second bombing, I was here and that was so horrible, you know. I’m a Muslim but I don’t agree with what they did, you know. We have so many different types of Muslims. In Islam, I think there are around 73 types, every Muslim brings something different. If people really know about jihad, if they read about that; they don’t have to do that thing, you know.
In our religion we can fight someone, like fight back, if they fight us first. But if they don’t fight us, we don’t have to fight them, you know. It’s like that.
And about criminals, you know, everywhere, every country has that. The thing is all the tourists should understand what they should do before they go to the clubs. Maybe they should just bring enough for taxi money so it’s safer to go back to your hotel by taxi. And try to keep all the important things in their bags or something.
2BBC, Poverty ‘surged’ after Bali bombing, October 13, 2003 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3186436.stm