Analysis: Can Bali’s Tourism Industry Expect an Obama Effect?

President Barack Obama at a state dinner in Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo Credit: Pete Souza.


Part Five

While Michael Taylor is in Bali, Barrack Obama is re-elected President of the United States. Because Obama attended high school in Indonesia, Indonesians take great pride in his election and now in his re-election to that office. And this makes Michael wonder, what impact that his re-election will have on Bali’s travel industry?


Indonesia’s Favourite Son?

The election of Barrack Obama to a second term as president of the United States was headline news around the world. And the newspapers in Bali, Indonesia, were no exception.

But while Obama seems to enjoy considerably more popularity abroad that he does at home – in some countries his approval ratings are as high as 90% – the interest that Indonesians have displayed in his presidency has taken on something that transcends politics.

Because Obama went to high school in Indonesia, many Indonesians look upon him almost as a native son. And they seem to take intense pride in the fact that he has been elected – and now reelected – president of the United States.

Impact on Tourism

But there are other considerations, especially on the island of Bali, where I am now staying. Will the re-election of Barrack Obama help boost inbound arrivals in the Southeast Asian island, whose economy relies heavily on tourism?

Bali’s tourism industry took two heavy hits owing the the twin terrorism attacks in 2002 and 2007, which resulted in a sharp drop off in tourist arrivals from the United States, Australia, and other countries in the West. In fact, for several years the travel industry in Bali was in the doldrums.

However, several years have passed since the last attack without serious incident. And travelers are returning. Could this be what Bali needs for a full recovery?

Stronger Bilateral Ties

Bagus Sudibya, a travel industry insider, expects Obama’s re-election to strengthen bilateral, cultural, political, social, and tourism ties between Indonesia and the United States. Bali’s tourism industry, he believes, should be a prime beneficiary.

“The majority of people in the industry are very optimistic and hopeful with President Obama winning the election,” Bagus tells the Bali Daily.

“Tourists from American and Europe are considered to be ‘quality tourists’ who spend long vacations in Bali. They are also repeaters and faithful, coming back year after year.”

Hopes are high that Obama will pay another visit to Indonesia during his second term. And nowhere are those hopes higher than on the island of Bali. Obama’s trip here to attend the ASEAN Summit in November 2011 was a source of tremendous pride on the island.

I know, because I was here just before the conference began. And everyone – from taxi drivers to hotel staff – were talking about it!

Hopes are that if Obama should return to Bali, the images of him broadcast around the world – and not least of all in the United States – will send a clear message that Bali is a safe play for travelers.

Should we call this the Obama Effect?

Note: this blog post was originally published in November 2012. And it was updated in July 2022.



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