Over the decades, tourism has experienced continued growth and is nowadays one of the fastest growing industries worldwide (Antara & Sumarniasih, 2017). Many new tourism destinations have emerged in Asia: for example, in Indonesia, where tourism has become a priority sector for national economic development (Antara & Sumarniasih, 2017). In 2017, travel and tourism in the region accounted for 6.2% of the total national GDP and 5.6% of the total employment (WTTC, 2017). Bali is the tourism capital of Indonesia, accounting for 40% of the total national arrivals (Indonesia Investments, 2018).
The government’s first tourism strategy was implemented in the 70s (Hanna, 2004), when the “Master Plan for the Development of Tourism in Bali” was executed (Hanna, 2004). The plan focused on developing the south of Bali while promoting cultural tourism (Hanna, 2004). The plan worked, and the south of Bali is now the most developed and visited area on the island (BGTO, 2017). On the contrary, the north is one of the least developed and visited areas (Lonely Planet, 2018).
In 2011 the governor tried to relieve the pressure in the south by prohibiting the building of new tourist resorts and thereby pushing tourism developments towards the north (Coconuts Bali, 2016). However, the regents of southern cities kept signing permits for new resorts (The Jakarta Post, 2016) and, therefore, the policy was never truly effective. The goal of relieving pressure in the south and pushing tourism development into the neglected areas such as the north was never reached.
As the above mentioned strategy did not work, other strategies could be considered in order to attract tourists to the north of Bali. A first but important step to build new strategies could be to understand people’s ideas and impressions of north Bali as a tourist destination, commonly understood as tourism destination image (TDI) (Crompton, 1979). To find out why tourists could be interested in visiting the north, it is important to know what their current image of north Bali is. It is key to identify the two components of TDI: the cognitive component is the individual’s own knowledge and beliefs about the destination and the affective component is the individual’s feelings toward the destination (Beerlin & Martín, 2004).
Research has proved that when people have a positive TDI of a place they have never been (known as pre TDI) they are more likely to travel there. Likewise, tourists who have a positive TDI after visiting a destination (known as post TDI) are more likely to revisit and recommend the destination (Tasci et al., 2007).
Therefore, this research studied the TDI of north Bali. The objective of this paper was to understand what the most appealing and unappealing features of north Bali were and if these could affect tourists´ travel decisions.
The first step of this study was an analysis of the literature on existing TDI theories, including books, journals, government statistics and industry reports. This information allowed the researcher to identify the components and formation of TDI, as well as the most appropriate scales and attributes to measure it.
Nevertheless, each destination has different characteristics and the attributes used to measure its image need to be attached to its unique features (Iordanova, 2017). In order to identify the unique features of north Bali the following open-ended question was asked to professionals from the tourism industry and travellers “list the three words or expressions that come to your mind when you think of north Bali”.
Last but not least, quantitative research was conducted using two different questionnaires. Questionnaire A was designed to measure post TDI and post-travel behaviour whereas questionnaire B aimed to measure pre TDI and pre-travel behaviour. In order to have comparable data, both questionnaires measured TDI in the same way, using a 5-point Likert scale.
The questionnaire was self-administered to tourists visiting Bali. In total, 228 questionnaires were collected over a two week period in August 2018. Data was analysed using the statistical programme SPSS.
Generally speaking, tourists have a “positive” TDI of north Bali. As far as the cognitive domain is concerned, tourists who have been to north Bali or are intending to go believe that the most positive attributes of the destination are its beautiful scenery, its welcoming and friendly local people and their rich customs and traditions. Interestingly, they ranked great beaches and great National Parks very low. Tourists who are not intending to visit the north agree that its most appealing features are its beautiful scenery and its welcoming and friendly local people. Additionally, they believe that its value for money, especially the price for food and accommodation are key features of the area. On the other hand, the most negative attributes of the region are its infrastructure (especially the transport-system and the shopping opportunities) and the night life and entertainment opportunities. In addition, tourists who have not been to the north believe that its cleanliness and hygiene are unfavourable. Results from the affective domain reveal that north Bali is seen as a pleasant and relaxing destination, but not so much as exciting and stimulating.
Taken as a whole, the results show that TDI is indeed a dynamic concept and that tourists have a more positive TDI of north Bali after their trip. This research has shown that the more positive the post TDI of north Bali is, the more likely tourists are to revisit and recommend it. The survey indicated that tourists held a “positive-very positive” post TDI. In consequence, they are “likely” to revisit and recommend north Bali as a travel destination. Additionally, this study has found that tourists who are intending to visit the north (only 33%) have a more positive image than those who are not intending to go. Additionally, their pre TDI is negatively affected by several travel constraints, the most critical ones being “the lack of information” and “the distance” to the destination. Therefore, this research demonstrates that by enhancing tourists’ post TDI, their likelihood of revisiting and recommending the destination would increase to the highest levels. Moreover, by tackling tourists’ travel constraints and improving their pre TDI, tourists’ numbers visiting the north could increase.
Discussion and recommendations
By studying the TDI of north Bali and understanding its most appealing and unappealing attributes it has been possible to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the destination. In response to this study, efforts should be concentrated on improving tourists’ pre and post TDI of north Bali by promoting the most appealing attributes of the region and improving the most unappealing features. Hopefully, the results will allow both private and public practitioners to develop effective destination management, including decisions on planning, product development, marketing, positioning and promotion (Tasci & Gartner, 2007). Consequently, the number of tourists visiting the north will increase and this will in turn, relieve the southern region.
In general, tourists recognize the beautiful scenery and the cultural attractions as the most appealing features in the north. In this point of view, it would make sense to keep promoting cultural tourism in addition to the natural features of north Bali. However, it must be said that the north should be developed carefully since it is home of two protected attractions: the Taman National Park and dolphin watching (Holden, 2017). According to the results, north Bali lacks an exciting and stimulating character. In order to instil excitement, it would be useful to promote sports and wildlife activities. For instance, climbing Mt. Batur, hiking to a waterfall, doing a buggy tour or visiting the Safari and Marine Park. Cultural activities such as cooking classes, cultural local tours or visiting a local handicraft market can be useful to enhance the stimulating character as tourists appreciate that in Bali.
Additionally, in order to improve tourists’ pre TDI it is key to tackle their travel constraints. The lack of information could explain why the great beaches, great National Parks, great opportunities for sports and wildlife activities and great opportunities for wellness activities and relaxation have received a negative mark, even though there are plenty in the area (Wonderful Indonesia, 2018). In order to solve this issue, it is necessary to develop specific marketing and management strategies as follow: (1) focus on the promotion of the dark sand beaches and the Taman National Park (2) create visual content of the activities that can be done in the area and display it on social media using bloggers and vloggers and (3) create an association with business in the south in order to enhance promotions about the north. Furthermore, it is essential to invest in a well-developed transport-system, standard hygiene, cleanliness and personal safety and later communicate the improvements in order to make north Bali a more competitive destination. In addition, more intensive marketing efforts should be made to enhance respondents’ perception of north Bali’s shopping opportunities and great night life and entertainment.