TRAVEL + LEISURE

CRUISE TRAVEL BOOM: BALI WELCOMES RECORD NUMBERS IN 2024

In what is poised to become a historic year for cruise travel in Bali, the island is witnessing an unprecedented surge in government and private investment to position itself as the premier cruise destination in Southeast Asia.

06.01.2024
BY MAXWELL SOETOMO
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The first of an impressive fleet of seventy jumbo cruise liners scheduled for 2024 recently made its grand entrance into Bali's Benoa Harbour. The Norwegian Jewel, a colossal 294m ship, marked the inauguration of this ambitious venture, carrying 2,350 eager tourists who spent an enchanting night exploring the island.

The arrival of the Norwegian Jewel was celebrated with traditional Balinese fanfare, featuring captivating performances of the Jauk Keras, Jauk Manis, and the Keraton Legong Dance by local dancers. The vessel, having embarked on its journey from Laem Chabang, Chonburi Province, Thailand, made a brief stop at Selamat Harbour in Nusa Tenggara Barat before gracing Bali's shores.

This event is not merely a spectacle but signals the commencement of a monumental year for cruise travel in Bali. The cruise industry, with its promising influx of visitors, is expected to bring substantial benefits to both tourists and local communities alike.

The Norwegian Jewel's 2,350 passengers, accompanied by over 1,000 crew members, represent just the beginning of what could become a transformative period for Bali. The surge in cruise travel is set to create a plethora of career opportunities for young Balinese individuals.

Ketut Suarnata, Chair of the Ganesh Aksara Wiguna Foundation, emphasized the need for legislative changes to facilitate the entry of young Balinese workers into the cruise industry. Speaking passionately, Suarnata, also a candidate for the upcoming general election in February, underscored the importance of reducing costs and providing funding to support aspiring Balinese youth in pursuing careers in the travel sector.

Highlighting the challenges faced by prospective cruise workers, Suarnata stressed the necessity of preparing documents such as passports, visas, and certificates, along with funding upfront training fees. The foundation he leads focuses on providing hospitality and English language training to equip young Balinese with the skills necessary for international careers.

Suarnata, recognizing the significant income disparities, expressed, "Salaries abroad, especially on cruise ships, are much higher than in Bali. With high salaries, it is easier for the younger generation to develop themselves and build their future."

As the demand for cruise travel grows, renovations at Benoa Harbour are underway to enhance the tourist experience. The recent extension of the pier allows the harbor to accommodate cruise ships up to 500m in length, a considerable increase from the previous limit of 350m. A collaborative effort between BUMN and Pelindo is in progress to build a new permanent gangway, ensuring seamless boarding and disembarking for tourists.

In its pursuit of becoming a premier tourist destination, Indonesia aims to welcome 11.4 million international tourists in 2024. With Bali remaining the flagship destination, the island is poised to attract the majority of these tourists. However, if current travel trends persist, Bali could see an even greater influx of international visitors, especially with the numerous cruise ships scheduled to dock in Benoa Harbour throughout the year. The booming cruise travel industry in Bali promises not only economic growth but also an opportunity for the younger generation to shape prosperous careers in the international tourism sector.

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