7 Reasons Bali Lures Americans For Work, Play And Even Retirement

If Balinese paradise makes you think of beautiful beaches or holistic retreats inspired by “Eat, Pray, Love,” you would be right. But, there’s more to it than that now, following a global pandemic that up-ended the way people travel and what they are looking for in a destination (or even new place to live either full-time or for a few months). Staying in places longer, visiting more than one resort in a given destination, switching to healthier diets and spending more time with locals are all top trends.

In Bali, year-over-year tourism jumped from just over 2 million visitors in 2022 (when most borders were open and people were traveling) to over 5 million visitors in 2023. That’s close to a 150% increase, according to numbers from Bali’s government tourism department and Bali’s Airport Authority. These numbers reflect visitors traveling to different parts of the island including Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud and Sanur.

Along with this increase has come a new focus for hoteliers on how to adapt to evolving guest needs, including those staying for longer periods of time. Expats are also flocking to the Indonesian paradise citing low costs of living and high quality of life, according to local blogs like Baligram.me that lists the dozens of celebrities that rave about Bali.

In late 2023, the government made it even easier to move to the island for those over the age of 60 with a new retirement visa for foreign nationals. Vacationers can pay for a tourist visa at the airport, but digital nomads also have easily accessible options to stay for several months at a time.

Since the pandemic, remote working, eco-friendly ways of life and wellness experiences have all grown in importance and are drawing more Americans, as well as other international visitors, to vacation or move to the island.

Bali ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of people

“The Balinese live their lives in balance, and it rubs off on guests,” says Randy Shimabuku, general manager of Four Seasons Resorts Bali. In his time as general manager on the island, he has already seen more foreigners moving to the island to live or for extended stays. Four Seasons has seen a shift in the market with fewer Chinese tourists, but the American market has grown by between 25 and 30%.

According to a recent story in Travel Weekly, “post-pandemic romance travel is booming, and evolving, as travelers place more value on spending time together and are no longer waiting for milestone moments to get away with loved ones.”

The article cites a 2023 Deloitte holiday travel study that shows romance and quality time with a partner is now outpacing the “revenge travel” phenomenon. Bali has seen its own uptick in weddings, which is in line with data from a Destination Wedding Global Market report that shows worldwide, destination weddings grew from $21.3 billion in 2022 to $28.3 billion in 2023. The numbers this year should be even greater, say experts.

It’s not just couples. The article references a new concept, “buddymoons,” with friends looking to travel together and explore new places whether that is for a wellness retreat, toes-in-the-sand vacation or remote working get away. From 2019 to 2023, Four Seasons officials noted a 10% upswing in group travelers with a longer average length of stay compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Resorts lean into remote work trend

With more people traveling with the intention to stay productive in paradise, destinations like Bali have seen an uptick in laptop-toting travelers. Resorts have embraced this trend, which has guests often spending productive time on property before switching off to appreciate the destination.

Both Four Seasons Resorts in Bali have added a slew of ideal remote working spots to the physical resort map where guests can set up shop while taking in inspiring views and access easy-access power outlets, whether indoors or al fresco. Guests can split their time staying between the two properties, and they can transfer between the two via river raft for an especially unique experience when they are ready for a break.

Gone are the days of hotels touting that spotty Wi-Fi or the lack of in-room desks are signs that people should disconnect when on vacation. Now, it is almost a necessity to offer what travelers need.

Four Seasons Resort Bali Jimbaran Bay created an in-room menu of items that can be delivered like ergonomic desk chairs, monitors, keyboards with mouse and mouse pad, printer and laptop tray. For those conducting digital meetings with people around the world, task lamps and ring lights are also on the menu.

Solo travel and wellness continue to grow

According to the Solo Traveler’s 2023 Reader Survey, the most likely people to travel alone hail from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. All of these are among Bali’s top markets, which also rely heavily on visitors from India and Singapore. More respondents said that they preferred to go it alone when visiting resort destinations rather than urban ones. And while Bali tourism officials did not have exact data on solo visitors, these survey results are positive signs for Bali’s hotels, tour operators and rental properties.

Wellness is another key driver for business with spa revenue seeing a boost. It’s not just traditional massage and beauty treatments. A former Buddhist priest oversees the spa at Four Seasons Sayan leading guests in healing ceremonies like a sacred nap where guests sleep suspended in a fabric cocoon while listening to the sounds of the river. Sound baths and laughing yoga meditations are all the rage, too.

Both Four Seasons properties are planning to grow their spa footprint this year to provide space and services to meet demand. The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, finished off a year-long renovation while Ayana Segara is also fresh from a complete overhaul and includes substantially larger spa facilities.

Celebrity travel is a growing trend, but so is going green

Another phenomenon has been the effect that celebrity visitors can have on a destination. Julia Roberts did her part in her infamous movie that takes place, in part, on Bali. This led to a tremendous jump in people seeking wellness destinations. When former president Barack Obama stayed at the Four Seasons Sayan, suddenly everyone wanted to pay a visit to the suite where he slept, says Shimabuku.

The Kardashians also visited the property for a day, raising its profile as a wellness resort to new heights and drawing curious tourists that want to see it for themselves. This same phenomenon is also what happened in destinations like Croatia and Sicily after high-profile TV programs were filmed there.

Eco-friendly operations are also top of mind for travelers. Resorts like Desa Potato Head, part of a regenerative hospitality brand that was born in Bali, went completely carbon-neutral in 2017, but hasn’t stopped there. It has reduced the amount of waste it sends to landfills from 50% to 3%.

At Four Seasons Bali Jimbaran Bay, the resort’s new Telu bar relies entirely on upcycled and recycled products. Plastic pollution and recycled glass bottles collected from area beaches by local charities has been transformed into artwork. Many of the drinks go back to support particular charity organizations giving guests the chance to choose the one that is most important to them.

This zero-waste approach is becoming more popular around the world. The resort uses honey from its beehives, herbs from its gardens and even inedible produce materials for decorative garnishes. This organic waste is often preserved using techniques like lacto-fermenting, dehydrating and pickling to use later in the season.

More than 6,600 upcycled antique shutters from Java cover the facade of Desa Potato Head. Hand-woven ceilings throughout the resort are made from 1.7 tons of plastic bottle waste.

New resort openings to meet demand

Just in time are several new property openings from 2023 or soon to come this year. They include The Meru Sanur, Umana Bali, LXR Hotels & Resorts (part of Hilton Honors) and Ayana Segara Bali, which opened in late 2022.

Families can look forward to properties that entertain kids as much as adults with new openings like the Holiday Inn Resort in Canggu (part of IHG One Rewards) and Grand Mercure Bali Seminyak (part of the Accor Live Limitless program). For those looking to work, play, travel or even live, Bali is experiencing a boom in visitors and new residents.

Perhaps musician and actor David Bowie summed it up best when cited in a Baligram.me story saying, “Bali is an oasis of calm in a frantic world.” And that’s what people are looking for these days.

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