Peggy and I have had the good fortune to have traveled to Indonesia many times over the last 25 years and have always been impressed with their ability to deal with adversity and make the most of difficult situations. The culture is vibrant and flexible to change. The Island of Bali, where we do much of our work, has been able to hold onto traditions very well, while also adapting to the changes brought by tourists and business travelers.
Over the last few years Indonesia has had to deal with a variety of natural disasters (Tsunami and several Volcanoes), isolated terrorist incidents (causing travel warnings from Australia and US) and energy cost increases.
Bali has been seriously impacted by the downturn in tourism since the 2003 Bali Bombing and the second bombing of 2005. The lack of Australians and Americans is especially noticeable. There has also been a slowdown in Business travel to Indonesia as the Chinese mass-production exporters are trying to undercut the handicraft producers of the world.
However, we believe Bali and Indonesia will survive and prosper through these changes, as they have others in the past.
The tourist trade will stabilize and grow again; there is just too much history, culture, scenery and friendliness for it go the other way. The food is fantastic, the services great and travel/hotel amenities superior! Indonesia is and will remain a great place to visit.
The production of handicrafts and furniture will likely evolve over the coming years. The creative capability of the Balinese will not easily succumb to cheap mass produced Chinese products. There will undoubtedly be some increased automation, but I do not believe this will be the driving force of any change; artistic design and hand production are the core strengths of the island. The Balinese handicraft economy will remain centred around small scale, independent, family producers; with a creative flair.
The recent downturn is showing that the producers that kept their rice-fields, hogs and cattle are the ones best able to ride out the changes that are happening. They have been able to withstand the changes in the monetary economy.
During the February buying trip, our suppliers were thrilled to have us back and quick to show us their new and improved products. In the face of economic changes they were emphasizing flexibility and enhanced quality. As always, the people were friendly, the food wonderful and the accommodations a little less expensive. No-where did we feel at risk. Bali was, and still is, one of the safest and warmest places we have visited in the world; a wonderful destination for business or pleasure!