Change is in the air

From warnings to tourists visiting Bali, to changes in Bryon Bay and shopping in Dubai, travel editor Winsor Dobbin has all the latest news.

Behave yourselves!
If you’ve been to Bali, then you have almost certainly seen tourists – many of them Australians – behaving badly. But now authorities in our favourite holiday island destination have had enough of drunks and other badly behaved visitors. 

Provincial leaders are debating whether to increase the price of the recently introduced Bali Tourism Tax Levy to keep out the riff raff, the Bali Sun has reported. The tax was introduced in February and requires all international holidaymakers and tourists to pay  IDR 150,000 to help preserve culture and nature in Bali and level up the tourism infrastructure on the island. But collection of the levy has been haphazard at best. When I visited a few months ago many visitors simply ignored the airport stand where they were supposed to pay up.

In light of the apparent rise in the number of foreigners behaving badly in Bali, leaders on the island have re-started conversations about how best to deter unruly foreigners and attract more high-quality (read big-spending) visitors to the province.

One method that has been tabled by tourism leaders is to hugely increase the tourism tax fee.

Stakeholders from the tourism sector are calling for a massive hike to the fee, and are arguing for the tax to be raised from IDR 150,000 to IDR 500,000 and in some cases IDR 800,000, which is around $US50.

Speaking to reporters, Chairman of Commission II of the Bali Regional People’s Representative Council (DPRD), Ida Gede Komang Kresna Budi, said he wants to see the fee increased to the equivalent of $US50. 

Budi told reporters: “We want people who are of higher quality to come. We are trying to consult with the police to form a tourism police that specifically handles tourism…That is the basis for us wanting to make changes to the revision of the regional tourism levy regulation.”

He said he does not want tourists coming to Bali feeling like they can brazenly violate the law and disrespect local culture and norms.

“There is this problem because usually, those who act up are members of the bottom [low-spending tourists],” he said. “This must be anticipated.”

He also accepted that, at present, the way in which the Bali Tourism Tax Levy is being promoted and operated for tourists is not as easy as it should be.

“Currently, we cannot find a suitable place at the airport due to a lack of co-ordination with the airport and Immigration as a supporting stakeholder,” he said. “We hope that with coordination from all parties, everything can be maximised.”

Budi’s motion has been seconded by tourism expert Taufan Rahmadi, who says that a big hike in the Bali Tourism Tax Levy would be an essential strategic step to help improve the quality of tourism on the island.

Personally, I am not sure a $US50 fee is going to dissuade anyone. But extra security, as launched recently in Canggu, might help.

Image: Cocktails at The Damai, Bali. The Damai is somewhere you can chill out in style without any risk of bad behaviour.

Visa boost
Australian travellers are among the big winners following the recent visit of Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

Fresh after announcing visa-free access for New Zealand travellers to China, Li flew across the Tasman and offered the same benefits to Australians.

The visa relaxation moves gives Australians up to 15 days in China without the need for a $110 single-entry tourist visa. The visa-free entry will be valid for tourism, business or family visits.

Australians join New Zealand, Singapore, France, Japan, Spain and Thailand in having the perk, a sign of thawing relations between China and Australia.

“We agreed to provide each other with reciprocal access to five-year multiple entry visas for tourism, business and visiting family members – so as to better facilitate personal exchanges,” Li said.

Qantas and Jetstar step up

Following the demise of Air Vanuatu, Qantas and Jetstar have announced they will be operating up to nine return flights each week between Australia and Vanuatu.

Starting on September 10, Qantas will fly three times a week between Brisbane and Port Vila. More importantly for inner westies, Jetstar will offer up to four weekly flights between Sydney and Port Vila from December 12.

The new flights will unlock a mix of all-inclusive travel on Qantas and low fares with optional extras on Jetstar.

Jetstar’s flights from Sydney will use its growing fleet of Airbus A321neo LRs.

Renowned for its Indigenous culture, pristine beaches, active volcanos, vibrant marine life and adventure activities, Vanuatu is a delightful destination on Sydney’s doorstep.

Jetstar Group CEO, Stephanie Tully said Vanuatu is a brand-new destination for Jetstar.

“Ahead of the arrival of our 13th A321neo LR next month and more new aircraft on the way, we’re continuing to grow our international network with the launch of low fares seats between Sydney and Port Vila,” she said.

“We’re excited to be able to offer more Australians great value holiday options to one of our nearest and most beautiful pacific island destinations.”

Fares for the new flights are available for sale at and, or through travel agents.

All change in Byron Bay

The culinary winds of change are blowing through one of our favourite weekend getaways: Byron Bay. 

Barrio Byron Bay is no more. 

But welcome to Nourishing Habitat (previously Barrio Byron Bay) which is set to offer three distinctive dining venues under one roof.

Nourishing Habitat is a project by restaurateurs Utku Ayhan of Foxy Luu’s Byron Bay and Sefa Kitchen in Sydney, and Nicholas Degryse of Pure Hospitality Group in Sydney. The three venues will open one month apart but all will be “dedicated to local produce, community, and sustainability”.

The duo is collaborating with interior designer and creative director Jason Grant to transform the space. The first of the trio of restaurants to open is Commune Canteen, which opened late last month.

Inspired by the home-cooked meals found in Mediterranean communities, Commune Canteen offers a rotating menu with “colourful salads, hot slow-cooked meals, hearty soups, and in-house baked breads”. 

Embracing a canteen-style dining experience, Commune Canteen encourages guests to customise their meals using a fill-up tray system with three or five compartments, designed for mixing and matching. They will also host communal lunches, featuring a long table in the Habitat courtyard, with shared plates. 

The executive chef is Thomas Ahern, a Byron Bay native, who has worked at Rae’s on Wategos and for Marco Pierre White and Jamie Oliver.

Shopping Spree?
Dubai Mall is billed as the world’s largest shopping centre – and was the most visited place on earth in 2023. 

Now it is about to become even bigger. 

United Arab Emirates real estate developer Emaar Properties has just announced a redevelopment project that will include 240 new luxury stores and food and beverage outlets. 

The project represents an investment of 1.5 billion dirhams – or just over $610 million. 
The shopping centre, already the largest in the world by total area, is currently home to over 1,200 retail spaces and over 200 food and beverage outlets.

This is complemented by the mall’s attachment to the Burj Khalifa, as well as a complete 155-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton, the world’s largest mall aquarium, an immersive digital art museum, an Olympic-sized ice rink and a 26-screen cinema complex. 

Dubai Mall had 105 million visitors last year, a 19% increase from the year before. 

“The new Dubai Mall expansion is a great addition to one of the most visited sites in the world,” said Emaar Properties founder Mohamed Alabbar. 

“We extend our gratitude to our esteemed guests and loyal customers, as well as our partners, retailers, and government authorities for their unwavering support. This expansion reflects Dubai’s ambitious vision to remain at the forefront of global innovation and culture, further solidifying our city’s position as a top global destination. 

“Our mall embodies the city’s vibrant spirit and dedication to excellence, turning the leadership’s vision into a reality. Being an integral part of Dubai’s economic fabric, we play a crucial role in the city’s success and innovation.”

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