Tourism really began to boom in Bali in the 1970s after the opening of the Ngurah Rai International Airport. This was built to accommodate the influx of tourists that came after the construction of the Bali Beach Hotel in 1963. Before that, there were only a measly three hotels on the whole island.
Nowadays, tourism accounts for around 80 per cent of Bali’s total Gross Domestic Product. Agriculture, in particular rice cultivation, fruit growing and coffee bean harvesting remain to be the main employment industries, but as more tourists arrive, more Balinese are ditching the traditional paddies and heading for the beach side cities.
Kuta and its main beach is the biggest draw, mainly attracting visitors from Australia and Europe. Kuta used to be a small beach town but it is now completely taken over by high rise hotels overlooking the beach. Legian and Seminyak, which used to be independent townships, have been absorbed into Kuta’s sphere of influence and have become part of one massive resort. Sadly Kuta has become quite polluted and is fast gaining a reputation as a bit of a sloppy destination.
Other very popular destinations include Sanur, which was the original tourist hub, which is much more quiet. While it does feature some modern hotels, it is largely old-fashioned and quiet.
For something a bit calmer, travelers often seek out the refuge of Ubud, which is in the center of the island. This resort largely features Balinese type villas and houses and it is known for its very calming atmosphere. To the South of the main airport, travelers can opt for Jimbaran and the newer developments of Nusa Dua and Pecatue, although they are quite cosmetic and ultra modern. Bali was rocked by terrorist bombings targeting tourists in 2002 and 2005, but it recovered and according to the last reliable figures collected in 2015, was averaging 3 million foreign tourists per year.