Bali is on a roll. The island’s upscale southern tip has been continuously expanding to give a home to a range of chic new resorts, classy boutiques and posh restaurants to serve the ever-growing number of visitors. But it’s not just holidaymakers who are being attracted – Bali has also secured two major conferences, showing that its events industry is developing in leaps and bounds as well. It will host the 19th Asean Summit in October, which will bring in 1,000 guests, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in 2013, with about 2,000 visitors.
“Definitely Bali is hot right now – everybody wants to invest. It’s a good time to be here,” says Ivan Casadewall, general manager of Anantara Seminyak. Investment is pouring in, with 80 percent of the funds going into hotel developments.
“For the past two years Bali has been booming,” agrees Philippe Battlé, general manager of the Pullman Bali Legian Nirvana, which opened in February, adding that Accor has four more projects under construction on the island. “Additional projects are under negotiation, offering a range from economy to upper-scale in the key areas of the island.”
Hotels are not the only ones gearing up to accommodate the rising number of arrivals, new meetings and events venues are changing the skyline of the luxury resort complex of Nusa Dua. A new convention centre (see Centre Stage in the April/May issue of Mix) has opened right next to the existing one, increasing the capacity to 5,000 people.
Forty-five minutes away from Ngurah Rai International Airport, there is the new 1,200-seat Bali Theatre, which held a Yamaha event in January for 1,200 guests, with a special appearance by Jorge Loranzo, world Moto-GP champion. The theatre sits in the middle of the Bali Safari Marine Park, and it can be hired for other events as well if it does not clash with the show, Bali Agung. The Safari Park’s Uma restaurant can also cater for 1,000 people. Event organisers can also have the option to organise a safari at the 40-hectare endangered wildlife and marine conservation park, which is unique for combining Balinese cultural ambiance with the African savanna.
Undiminished outdoor charms
Bali’s deep love of the open has long been recognised. With its balmy weather, living is almost exclusively outdoors. Bathrooms often have no roofs, bedrooms stand separately from the main sitting room, requiring a short walk, and spas and restaurants may have at least one or two sides open. Hotels are usually built on large pieces of land and include vast gardens decorated with romantic bales, have long stretches of beach and large swimming pools, open-air bars and alfresco restaurants.
Flowers bloom everywhere all year round, and most people are quite ready to accept the occasional quick shower and the lack of air conditioning to enjoy the beauty of nature. Bali offers a wider variety of experiences for meeting and incentive participants, well beyond its sun, sea and sand, and idyllic rice fields decorated with wind chimes.
“The most popular programme is whitewater rafting,” says Inda Trimato Garritt, managing director of A True Balinese Experience, a local company based near the Ayung River, north of Ubud. “We can create team-building games for up to 250 people, including whitewater slalom, treasure hunt, and construction of a small rock temple or racing. The trip will end at our finishing point and the group will have lunch at our restaurant with entertainment and an award ceremony for the winning team.”
A more elaborate waterborne programme is offered as part of InterContinental Bali Resort’s extensive Insider Collection. “For InterContinental, we combine the activities with local flavour,” says Justina Puspawati, managing director of Smailing Tours, a local company with more than 35 years of history. “We take the whole group in horse carriages, in a big convoy-like parade, to a fishing village, where the villagers come out to welcome the travellers with music and dance, and the group has pre-dinner cocktails. Then, they return by boat at sunset, so by the time they get back it is dark, and they are welcomed by 100 to 150 torchbearers. They will get wet when they get out of the boat, so we provide them with sarongs [before they go to have dinner].” Smailing Tours also arranges pirate trips and island hopping for incentive tours. “It’s like sea safaris,” explains Puspawati.
Elephant ride is A True Bali Experience’s second most popular activity. Up to 100 trips of 30-minute or 70-minute rides can be offered by the 16 elephants, which are in the care of the company as part of their contribution to the government-run elephant conservation programme. The trip leads through villages, rice paddies and a small forest. Visitors can observe the day-to-day activities of the local community and have lunch at the elephant camp, overlooking the emerald hills of Ubud.
The most exciting programme the company offers for incentive groups is the orienteering car rally with cute, candy-coloured, open-top VW Safari cars. One car can take a group of three people and the groups compete by picking up clues as they go on how to get to their final destination.
“They end up at the elephant camp and can join a ride or be rewarded with a nice lunch,” says Trimato Garritt, whose 15-year-old company has worked with many local and international corporations from the insurance, cosmetics, pharmaceutical and IT sectors, including Allianz-Indonesia, L’Oréal Paris and Compaq Poland.
With the ever-increasing traffic in Bali, riding a bicycle can be a little precarious. But it is a rewarding experience if tried at the right place. The InterContinental Bali Resort offers a bike ride to the fish market where delegates can participate in buying fish with the help of a local chef. On a beautiful sunny morning, participants will cycle by several temples, which define every village, and will see children going to school and families carrying temple offerings, before they get to the fish market located by the sea, under the low roof of an expansive building. After getting acquainted with the variety of seafood in the market, they return to the hotel to cook and consume the “catch”.
Bond with the community
Puspawati suggests blending the local culture into a tailor-made team-building programme. “We ask, ‘what is the area in your company that you would like to improve, is it trust, or learning from each other?’, and so on. We go to a village, spend a day there and take part in their activities. In a banjar [organised village or settlement] everybody has responsibilities, so the participants can take the father’s role, the wife’s role or children’s role. Some prepare meals, some perform, and so on. We combine it with cooking and take them to organic farms,” she says, explaining how they learn through the day to trust each other.
Many people working in Bali’s tourism industry are very conscientious of returning some benefits to nature and the local communities, and there are some great corporate social responsibility programmes. “We take them to places where people make sea salt for less than 25 cents a day, or to people who make palm sugar,” says Puspawati. “It creates a bond with the community, brings different kinds of feeling, which [delegates] cannot buy, only experience.”
Building strong infrastructure
Bali entertained 2.49 million visitors last year, an 11.8 percent increase over 2009 arrival figures. Once scared off by the two Kuta bombings of 2002 and 2005, Australians are back in force. With a 45.25 percent increase in arrivals last year compared to 2009, they overtook the Japanese as the number one market. These two markets are followed, although not hot on the heels, by mainland China, Malaysia and South Korea. Thanks to the push provided by tourism receipts, Bali’s GDP growth for 2010 was 5.66 percent, well above national average.
“The economy is doing well, the currency is appreciating. There is an interest: I was surprised by the number of enquiries from wholesalers and MICE business,” says Bali long-timer Craig Seaward, general manager of W Retreat and Spa Bali – Seminyak, which opened in March.
Local authorities know that a strong infrastructure is needed to sustain and nurture the island’s nascent business events sector. And the pressure that comes to bear relating to the Asean Summit and APEC Summit has prompted the government to finally begin some long-talked-about projects. Finances for a long-overdue upgrade of Ngurah Rai International Airport were approved in November last year, with a target opening date of March 2013. in time for APEC. A connecting toll road to ease traffic congestion, which has been discussed for years, is still on the drawing board. n
Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana
Sitting on the Legian beach with one restaurant and three bars, this 351-room offers a 320sqm ballroom, 250sqm pre-function space and 450sqm of meeting rooms. It plans to get about 40 percent of its customers through business events. A brand-new Mercure and All Seasons have opened nearby.
W Retreat and Spa
With 158 rooms and suites and 79 villas, W entices business events delegates to its 1,500sqm spa and fitness complex and 1,792sqm pool. It has two restaurants and a bar and can look after up to 180-people-strong meeting groups in the ballroom.
Courtyard Bali Nusa Dua
The 250-room hotel, located in Nusa Dua, attracts with a beautiful garden and a central pool. There are two meeting rooms, the 864sqm Krisan, which is divisible into three, and the 655sqm Palma, which splits into two smaller units. A 15-minute shuttle ride takes guests to the hotel’s dedicated beach-club facilities.
Banyan Tree Ungasan
The 72-villa property boasts luxurious one- to three-bedroom villas with their own pools, perched on cliffs near Uluwatu temple. There are two restaurants and three bars. Performances can be arranged around the 120sqm pool or in the 186sqm ballroom, which has a pre-function area. In addition, 96sqm of meeting space is also available. Free wifi internet is offered throughout the property.
The Rich Prada
Occupying 2.2ha of land within the Pecatu Indah Resort, it offers 910 luxury suites looking out to the Indian Ocean or a challenging 18-hole golf course designed by Ronald Fream. Opening late this year, the property is said to have the largest spa in Bali at 10,000sqm, plus a swimming pool, private beaches, four restaurants and expansive conference facilities.
This brand-new three-star property is aiming at the corporate events market with four meeting rooms ranging from 33sqm to 120sqm. They can accommodate up to 150 people. The 223-room, three-storey hotel also has a business centre, restaurant and a pool.
Perched on the edge of a cliff 80 metres above sea level, the property provides three stunning pool villas with a total of 10 bedrooms on 1.5ha of land. This accommodation has stunning views of the Indian Ocean through wall-to-wall glass windows and ample space, including a sitting and dining room and kitchen. There is a large spa, communal pool and several water features creating a soothing environment. The one-year-old property has hosted business events from fashion shows to corporate retreats.
At present, 22 airlines connect Bali directly or through Jakarta to the world. The most direct flights come from Australia, where every main city has frequent connections each day, while there are daily flights from Perth. Another destination with increasing flights is Russia. Most Asian capitals have direct flights as well, including Bangkok, Hong Kong, Nagoya, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo.
The island has a tropical climate, with year-round temperatures averaging 31?C. The wet season is between October and April. The dry season is between May and September, and the high season is during the summer months, which is the opposite of Phuket. However, dry and rainy seasons have been less clear-cut in recent years for which people blame global warming.
Citizens of 64 countries are eligible for visa on arrival, costing US$25 for stays up to 30 days, renewable for another 30 days. Non-extendable visa-free entry to Indonesia for 30 days is available to passport holders of Brunei, Chile, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Morocco, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. A travel document valid for at least six months is required.
Bali Tourism Board
tel: +62 754 092
A TRUE BALINESE EXPERIENCE
M&M INNOVATIVE CONCEPTS