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1.248 million Australians visited Indonesia In 2016. That’s up 11% from 2015, and up by a huge 546% over ten years since 2006, surpassing growth over the decade for every¬† other destination on the list of the most popular countries among Australian tourists.

For several years Indonesia has been the second most popular destination for Australians taking a trip overseas after New Zealand. In the case of New Zealand, family reunions feature mostly in the figures. That makes Indonesia our top leisure destination since 2010 when it leapfrogged the U.S.A.

Bali is the pull element. The number who visit other parts of Indonesia pales compared to the number of Australian citizens traveling to towards Bali.

Even the Bali bombings of October 2002, which took the lives of 88 Australians, showed just a momentary blip in our long love affair with the Island of the Gods. In November 2002, the month following the bombings, arrivals from Australia shrank by over 50 per cent from the 16,100 who traveled to Bali in November the previous year. By November 2003, a year after the attack, the figure had inflamed to 24,200, a 50% boost over the figure for November 2001.

By these numbers alone we reveal our love. People fall in love with Bali. The sound of trickling water in the rice terraces, the mossy temples, the tok-tok sound of bird scarers spinning in the wind, the spirit homes in the rice fields with their faded, flapping shreds of yellow fabric, the skyrocketing bamboo penjors that arch above the roadsides, the smell of kretek cigarettes, the banyan trees wrapped in checkerboard fabric, the females heading off to their midday prayers with a pyramid of fruit and flowers on their heads, the sound of a gamelan orchestra wandering through a silky night– Bali casts a spell, yet there are plenty who are not bewitched.

Out of 42 remarks posted in response to an article on Bali published on the traveller.com.au site in 2015, some were stridently unfavorable.

To the Indonesian government Bali’s tourism industry is a golden goose that continues providing, a massive employment machine and an important source of foreign exchange.

Keen to spread the world’s love for Bali more uniformly within their island chain, the Indonesian federal government has an ambitious program to establish 10 new versions of Bali. The list consists of the 9th century Buddhist temple at Borobudur in Central Java, Lake Toba in North Sumatra, which the federal government hopes to develop into the “Monaco of Asia”, Bali’s neighboring island of Lombok and Labuan Bajo, a former fishing village at the western end of the island of Flores.