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The Manifestations of Overtourism in Indonesia

Indonesia’s increasing focus in the tourism sector has brought with it the very real threat of overtourism. The environmental degradation caused by tourism activities are not just a hypothetical concern. Recently, there was much public discourse surrounding the government’s “super premium tourism” initiative targeting Komodo Island. This proposal sparked protests from various groups, raising issues such as the potential eviction of local residents and the shrinking habitat of the Komodo dragon. Additionally, popular tourist destinations like mountains experience overcrowding during peak seasons like the August 17th Independence Day celebration. This influx of visitors not only poses an environmental threat but also increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Here are several tourist attractions in Indonesia currently experiencing overtourism:

1. Borobudur

The Manifestations of Overtourism in Indonesia
Borobudur Temple via TEMPO/Abdi Purnomo

This iconic Central Javanese monument is a favorite among cultural tourists. As one of Indonesia’s architectural masterpieces, it’s no surprise that Borobudur highly attracts both local and international visitors. In 2019, the annual number of visitors reached 4.39 million, which is equal to an average of 12,000 daily visitors.

Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs , Luhut Pandjaitan, expressed concern that the surge in visitors has negatively impacted the temple’s structure. As reported by TEMPO on March 21, 2021, Borobudur has implemented “quality tourism” measures in accordance with the 1979 master plan.

2. Mount Semeru

The Manifestations of Overtourism in Indonesia
Climbers at the peak of Mount Semeru via TEMPO/Fajar Januarta

Mountains in Indonesia are generally experiencing overcrowding due to the ever-increasing number of visitors. The allure of aesthetic mountain photos shared on social media entices new climbers to attempt the ascent. Semeru, the highest mountain on the island of Java, is no exception. Its popularity boomed after a film featuring young climbers was released. Since then, Semeru has become increasingly crowded with visitors.

Fortunately, the management has taken steps to address the surge by implementing an online booking system that limits climbing quotas. Regular and occasional closures also help manage visitor numbers and allow ecosystems to recover from the impact of climbing activities.

3. Komodo Island

The Manifestations of Overtourism in Indonesia
Tourists photograph Komodo dragons on Komodo Island, Flores, Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) via TEMPO/Rully Kesuma

The sole habitat of the Komodo dragon, which is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts tourists from all corners of the globe. However, the continuous rise in tourist arrivals poses a threat to this unique ecosystem.

The government’s declaration of Komodo Island as a super premium destination has sparked controversy. The massive construction of a “Jurassic Park”—themed development project is believed to disrupt the Komodo dragons’ habitat, which has already been negatively affected by the increasing popularity of the tourist attraction. Protests from various entities, including UNESCO, have called for a review of the potential environmental impact of this project.

4. Malioboro

The Manifestations of Overtourism in Indonesia
During the pandemic, Malioboro was still full of visitors via ANTARA/Andreas Fitri Atmoko

The icon of Yogyakarta is always bustling with tourists inevitably making a stop at Malioboro. Situated in the heart of Yogyakarta City, it has become a natural center for crowd gathering. While the economy thrives in this area, the excessive busyness has taken its toll. Malioboro suffers from issues like disorganized parking and numerous cases of stalls charging exorbitant prices due to fierce competition.

5. Bali

The Manifestations of Overtourism in Indonesia
Kuta Beach, Bali via ANTARA/Fikry Yusuf

Bali remains the top destination for both international and domestic tourists visiting Indonesia. Tourism businesses flourish here, and it is the primary source of income for many. However, this rapid growth has had negative consequences for local residents. Excessive resource consumption by the tourism industry has led to a decline in the quality and quantity of water throughout Bali. Land scarcity is another growing issue, as rice fields that were once abundant in urban areas have been converted into business centers. Moreover, coastal abrasion continues to threaten Bali’s beaches, causing them to erode at an alarming rate.

Written by: M. Irsyad Saputra
Translated by: Novrisa Briliantina

Cover photo:
Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Java Timur. Uncontrolled crowds of visitors can cause the temple to increasingly lose its capacity/TEMPO-Abdi Purnomo

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