For years there have been tensions between online taxi service providers and local taxi groups in Bali.
While leading transportation officials in Indonesia insist that online taxis are legal in the country, many communities have established localized systems to help ensure local drivers don’t miss out on business.
Local drivers and the management team at Tirta Empul Temple in Gianyar are calling on online taxis to provide a drop-off-only service at the famous tourist attraction.
Tirta Empul Temple is one of the most famous temples in Bali, with thousands of tourists and worshippers visiting every week to take part in water cleansing ceremonies.
Water purification ritual at Tirta Empul Holy Water Temple in Bali. Where people come to clense and ward off evil spirits.
The management team has shared that they are growing increasingly frustrated with online taxi drivers dropping guests off and then hanging around the area waiting for a return or onward journey to come through on the app.
For local drivers and the Tirta Empul management teams, this creates what they see as a two-fold problem.
The first is that more vehicles are idling in the car park or on the roads surrounding the entrance, creating traffic, and secondly, they feel the online taxi providers are creating unfair competition with local drivers.
The Head of Manukayalet Traditional Village, I Made Mawi Arnata, told reporters, “We respectfully and firmly urge online taxis not to hang around or pick up passengers in the Tirta Empul parking area. If they violate this, they will be subject to the customary penalty of 100 kg of rice. Online taxis drop must only.”
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He added “This is a response to the conditions experienced by the people of Manukayalet who also work as drivers. So far, they have also been treated the same when they are in other places.”
And this is true, many tourist attractions and villages where many expats and long-term tourists rent villas have a similar system in place.
Online taxis may only drop off, and there are fines in place for those who try to pick up passengers in these areas.
This is why many tourists who try to call an online taxi in these spots will either have their request canceled or will be asked by the online taxi driver to walk to a spot closely, out of sight of the local taxi drivers in order to avoid conflict.
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The system has been effective so far at Tirta Empul Temple. Arnata explained to reporters, “Disembarking passengers is permissible, pick up passengers is not permissible. This was only installed one week ago and no violations have been found.”
However, this decision has not been well received by online taxi drivers and has been condemned by the Chairman of the Indonesian Transportation Society.
I Made Rai Ridartha has issued a statement to say that the prohibition of online taxis searching for passengers at Tirta Empul and similar tourist attractions in the area is inappropriate.
According to him, tourists must have access to affordable and accountable transportation when traveling in Bali.
Ridartha said “There shouldn’t be anything like that anymore. It will give a negative impression to tourists there, especially since nowadays there are so many transportation options that can be cheap and comfortable. You can’t force it, the guests will run away.”
This is an all too common scenario in Bali and while the drop-off-only policy works effectively in some places, across the board it is causing further tension between drivers in others, and ultimately creating frustration for tourists.
Earlier this year, following an altercation between a tourist and their online taxi driver and a local taxi driver the Bali Transportation Agency issued clear statements about the legality and legitimacy of e-hailing taxi services.
The Head of Disub, I Wayan Gede Samsi Gunarta, reiterated the Bali Governor Regulation Number 40 of 2019 concerning Application-Based Special Transport Vehicles.
He said, “There is no prohibition for online motorcycle taxis to operate anywhere. That means if he [a local taxi driver] is officially [legally registered], yes he must work together with online motorcycle taxis [drivers] to be able to pick up passengers.”