Making Bali Part Of Everyone's Life (By Alistair G. Speirs)
Promoting Bali as a destination should be easy, after all it is the island most people have wanted to visit over the last fifty years. But it hadn’t really been addressed, and in many ways didn’t need to be addressed, since tourist arrivals in the 80’s and 90’s just kept on rising.
But then came the bombings and not only was promotion suddenly desirable but it become essential as the tourists stayed away in droves. By this time of course it was no longer feasible to use the old cliche’d ‘Island of the Gods’ or ‘Tropical Paradise’ since Bali’s divinity and eternity had been severely compromised. So what to do?
Well that’s the problem that has faced me over the last few months as the whole question of marketing Bali – Post Bali Bomb II – was placed firmly on my company’s shoulders by the Ministry of Culture & Tourism and Bali Tourism Board.
The challenge was, and is, very real and very complicated. Bali is no more the safe, lazy, tropical, exotic, cultural paradise it was 20 or 30 years ago (the fact that so many previously considered ‘safe’ destinations had also been proven vunerable didn’t seem to matter. Bali was considered ‘not safe’ in the eyes of many Government advisories). It has developed into a very serious contender for the “Best Island Resort in the World” and in fact won that title from Travel & Leisure (US) readers this year. It has a very sophisticated hospitality industry of outstanding hotels and restaurants, great nightlife, increasingly good parks, superb art and culture, good surfing, diving and sailing, marvelous sightseeing, wonderful spas, excellent shopping, and well, everything in between, including a unique spirit that comes from the heart of the people.
But at the same time some really difficult challenges have emerged. The bombings are understandably & sadly in many people’s minds, but in addition there are the additional problems of tsunamis, earthquakes, bird flu, which affect the whole of Indonesia, and finally the most unfortunate linkage between drugs and Australian public through Shappelle Corby, Michelle Leslie and ‘Bali Nine’ cases, which have had serious negative effects on Australian consumer opinion through a feisty national press!
So what are we to do? It’s very hard to try to draw on people’s sympathies when fears are so genuine (and based on well constructed articles).
Of course there is an even greater difficulty to overcome to attract people back to the sunny shores of Bali – COMPETITION! And this we have by the truckload: ‘Malaysia – Truly Asia’, ‘Amazing Thailand’, ‘Uniquely Singapore’ are all blockbuster brands dominating the world’s media with very convincing advertising and promotion – all aimed at Bali’s prime markets!
So there you have the problems-or should I say challenges – how to conjure up an image of Bali that does not infer seeking pity, that can somehow cut across the fears and fragile perceptions of the consumers, yet still dare to compete with the huge marketing programs of the big brands. Oh yes! And pull all the diverse images of Bali together into a single program that represents all the stakeholders.
Our answer was to go back to the basics: what is it that virtually everyone agrees on when leaving Bali. What do most people retain fond memories off? We believe this is the people of Bali who are renowned for their charm & friendliness, their happy smiles, their readiness to stop and chat, their ability to befriend Australians, Japanese, French and Singaporeans alike.
And so our campaign was born: featuring 8 real Balinese representing the people who really live & work in Bali, who really love their island, who have nothing to do with bombs (they were the victims too), nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with drugs, nothing to do with government decisions, or blockbuster brands. People who can simply say ‘Bali is My Life’. Please look through the ads below and see if you feel any of them represents what you think. We have asked many people and so far everyone has said that’s it, ‘Bali is My Life’ too.
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