Why local communities are key to successful sustainable tourism in Bali

Last year, in 2017, the small village Pemuteran in North Bali won the national award for Sustainable Tourism, receiving gold for green culture and green environment.* So we have been wondering what it needs for a humble village like Pemuteran to receive such a high credit and how sustainability is implemented into the daily life of the local communities in Bali?

Back in December 2017 we traveled to the village of Pemuteran to visit our partner for coral reef restoration. The organization promotes a specific method of coral growth stimulated by low voltage electricity and alkaline conditions on artificial reef structures. However, the fact that this organization is cultivating corals on Pemuteran bay, is not the only reason why they have been credited with the Sustainable Tourism Award. We found that especially Balinese culture plays a significant role in managing sustainable fishing and tourism in this area.

Education and Sustainable Fishing Methods


“Our main focus is on conservation, as we believe that there has to be a team that ensures a proper education about sustainable fishing methods.” says Made Gunaksa, a local defender of sustainable fishing practices and a strong member of the village Pecalang. Pecalang are the social and traditional guards who maintain the village security in daily life and during ceremonies and cultural practices.** They are seen as a social organization of Balinese society and play a crucial role in maintaining peace and harmony. Most importantly, their members come from all levels of the community so they are well respected. In Pemuteran, the Pecalang use their recognition and respect to promote sustainable tourism practices and transfer them especially to the fishing communities.

Coral Reefs as an Attraction for Tourists and Researchers

“We teach the local fishermen how to become more eco friendly. We hope, that this will stop them from using destructive fishing methods like fish bombing or from mounting anchors that damage the corals.” During the 1980s the health situation of the marine ecosystems in Pemuteran reached a critical status, seeing that the number of coral reefs was declining due to the destructive fishing methods used by local fishermen. The community leader not only realized the importance of coral reefs for fish nurseries, but also that it is the main attraction for tourists and researchers. He then introduced eco-friendly practices and started raising awareness through the local Pecalang.

The Pecalang on Conservation Patrol

The Pecalang practices are simple, but effective. “To monitor our fishermen we go on patrol 4 times a week. We distribute to different regions.“ explains Made Gunaksa. ”We introduced punishments for anybody who violates against our rules. For example, if there are fishermen who use inappropriate fishing gear such as nets that are too wide and can damage corals, we will control this and discuss with with the communities and apply either of the 4 penalties”, starting with a simple warning letter at the first violation, up to the exclusion from the Pemuteran village as a last punishment.

So if you have been wondering, why you should study sustainable tourism in Bali, the story of Pemuteran shows how the involvement of local communities and existing traditional structures decide upon success or failure of sustainable international tourism management. Pemuteran is now an example par excellence for sustainable tourism studies, because the idea of sustainability was not forced from a higher politic institution, but planted among the social system in Bali, the Pecalang.

*http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-09/28/c_136646242.htm

**https://www.baliadvertiser.biz/pecalang/