Few places in the world evoke such strong mystical images as Bali. Known as the Island of the Gods, this is one of the few places on the globe where the words “tropical paradise” are not an empty cliché.
The vitality of the island’s culture and the clear determination of the Balinese themselves to preserve it are a welcome contrast to many other parts of the world which have been swamped by mass tourism and the globalisation of blandness that often follows.
This deep-rooted Hindu culture combined with Bali’s natural beauty ensures the island will remain a magnet for meeting and incentive planners.
Fortunately, this need to conserve Bali’s uniqueness seems to be widely understood among the events industry and sustainable tourism practices are being more widely applied.
John Daniels, director of Bali Discovery Events, says: “Whatever we can do to lessen the negative impact of tourism must be done. Since our founding, we issue clear guidelines to all our groups advising them not to buy items made from endangered species, not to give money to children and not to litter. This is clearly only a beginning. We are now working with clients to devise programmes that purchase carbon credits and can include tree planting and recycled materials in the execution of any group visit. To make tourism really sustainable and maximise its impact on the local economy, we try to include as many elements of local society as we can in creating services and goods for our clients.”
The island is also well suited to teambuilding activities, which can range from the active and energetic, to the cultural and educational.
Rowena Wynveld, a senior account manager at motivational specialist Tirian, says that themes from Bali’s culture can be brought in imaginatively to provide a fun motif as well as produce serious results.
“One of our signature teambuilding activities is The Ramayana Rescue, which is based on the Hindu epic.”
Teams have to build traditional forms of transport and then reenact a historical journey through racing these devices. In a Balinese context, it means bringing its Hindu culture to life for visitors.
The recognition of the need to protect Bali’s cultural as well as natural assets can be worked in positively to an events programme, argues IB Lolec, regional country manager of destination management company Pacific World Nusantara.
“We see a growth in demand for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. Now is a good time to include a company’s CSR mission in the programme. Environmental topics as well as community and social issues, such as tackling illiteracy and poverty, can be combined into programmes for our clients.”
It is perhaps fitting that one event that showed the world Bali was back in business was the UN Climate Change Conference held late last year.
Agus Waluyo, branch manager, Pacto Convex Bali, was one of the organisers for the event. He is well aware of the growing interest in eco-events.
“Bali provides many options for groups. If you want green-themed events, we can even arrange them at local organic farms.”
As one of Indonesia’s largest event companies, Pacto Convex has also brought many events to the island from Jakarta and other commercial centres on the Indonesian mainland.
Haryadi Satriono, director of sales and marketing at The Ritz-Carlton Bali Resort and Spa, says: “Bali’s reputation for wellness and the great spa treatments are a popular part of event programmes.”
Bali’s events industry has bounced back from the tragic events of some years ago and planners expecting to book late at rock-bottom prices will be disappointed, warns Nick Porter, hotel manager of The Laguna Resort and Spa in Nusa Dua.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen a major pick-up in bookings and enquiries. Planners should now think in terms of six to 12-month lead times for their events.
“While Bali’s rates are once again going up, if you compare what you can get here to what you would pay in Europe or even some other parts of Asia, it is great value for money. You always get what you pay for, so why not upgrade and raise the bar?”
Raising the Bar
The Laguna’s events team is also keen to weave in local culture and uses Balinese products and handicrafts. Coconuts can be stamped with a corporate logo and used instead of glasses for cocktails, this helps local farmers and they are bio-degradable.
“We’ve even worked in rice themes to our events. We show the process of how the local rice is grown, dehusked and cooked. We call it ‘from the paddy to the plate’,” Porter says.
Desiria Wright, director of sales and marketing at The Westin Bali and Bali International Convention Centre, also sees a growth in demand and, like many on the island, warns organisers to plan ahead.
She points out that getting seats on flights into Bali is no longer easy and planners who don’t sort out their logistical plans early on may face bottlenecks when trying to bring in substantial numbers of people to the island.
Once they do get to Ngurah Rai airport, Daniels points out that fast-track systems can be arranged to speed participants through customs and immigration checks. Welcome ceremonies can be arranged to transform the wait into an experience.
While the island has no shortage of luxury and high-end hotel accommodation, with more on the way in the shape of a soon-to-be-opened St Regis Bali in Nusa Dua, there are also unusual and unique venues that can be harnessed.
IB Lolec says: “There are a number of outdoor venues available in Bali, such as Rumah Bali. This has a capacity for up to 200 people, built in Balinese style and able to provide Balinese specialities for either a modern-type or traditional Balinese dinner. Another is the Garuda Wisnu Kencana, which is an outdoor venue, facing a giant statue of a Garuda bird. Seating capacity in the open air or tents can be up to 2,000 people. This is about 25 minutes from Nusa Dua. This is also good for dinners and can involve a large group of performers, traditional or modern, a fantastic venue if it is combined with creative lighting.
“You can also use Mengwi temple, the second largest in Bali. It is divided into three parts and we can use two parts as a dinner venue. The first area can be used as a welcome and cocktail area and the second part as a dining area, with a huge temple gate as a stunning background. This gives a completely traditional Balinese atmosphere. It allows the audience to experience the magic Balinese spirit and local touch if combined with the right lighting, decoration and Balinese performances. And don’t forget the people themselves, it makes for a stunning event.”
IB Lolec suggests using traditional decoration and cloth when arranging dinners and lunches, such as the umbul-umbul, Balinese flags, and penjor, a bamboo pole decorated with local crops.
He points out that these sorts of cultural touches are not made simply for foreign visitors.
“These decorations are also used during the Balinese daily activities and temple festivals and this unforgettable memory can be supported by hundreds of villagers joining the events, with a procession. This is the best part of Bali. The combination of the venue, the locals, the decorations, the lighting and torches, the service which is known as the royal family touch – with one person serving one course – and the music.”
John Daniels, director, Bali Discovery Events
Due to the recent appearance of excellent caterers, an entire range of outside venues is now available for upmarket groups. These include temple grounds, private estates and villas and even beach parties. As an added bonus for our clients, venues outside the traditional hotel function room provide tremendous savings in food, wine and alcohol in addition to giving the client an enhanced sense of exclusivity.
Some of the more unique options include dinners inside art museums, dinners in the foreground of the Bali Museum and private dinners at historical residences on the island.
Depending on the client, Balinese food is outstanding and the perfect counterpoint when organising a night of Balinese entertainment. But, even if the client opts for Western cuisine, there’s every reason to include local food products. We have wonderful seafood, produce, fruit and spices that work well with every style of culinary preparation.
Welcome drinks options using local rice wines or a small glass of Balinese dessert wine are generally enthusiastically endorsed by our clients.
People who travel are generally looking for exotic local touches and we are truly blessed in Bali to have so many wonderful local options available with which to mesmerise our clients.
When it comes to teambuilding, we have almost everything offered in other destinations plus a few Balinese special activities. White-water rafting trips with stops and team-tasking along the river route; art classes taught by one of Bali’s foremost painters; geo-caching treasure-hunt safaris done by teams issued with GPS systems; our “Bali Idol” programme in which clients get make-overs and singing lessons and then perform over dinner for each other on a custom-designed stage with lighting, cameras and discretely concealed teleprompters; outward bound and tree-top exercises. Then, there are Balinese cooking competitions that begin with group excursions to local markets where language and unusual ingredients issues make for “interesting” results; and teambuilding exercises that incorporate a community assistance element. The list goes on… but I’d better not give away all our secrets!
Bali has become a shopping destination with a wide range of both international products and local specialities. We often provide concierge staff at participants’ hotels to help with simple task such as expert packing or consignment to local shipping companies of items purchased in Bali.
Bali’s nightlife is legendary with some of the venues closing only when the sun comes up the following mornings. Depending on the client, we sometimes book one of the night venues for early cocktails or the entire evening. Alternatively, we arrange for our transportation vehicles to stand by in the Kuta-Legian area after a formal dinner programme, acting as a shuttle service back to the hotel for those participants seeking a taste of Bali’s night ife.
Bali’s got a wide range of boats to cater to groups of various sizes. Bali is surrounded by water and there are possibilities for including water sports in any incentive or group visit. Early morning high-speed ocean raft trips in search of dolphins
followed by a champagne breakfast on a local beach; exclusive moonlight cruises for groups from ten to 400 people; full-day excursions with games and a picnic on a private beach; and even kayaking explorations.
Bali has become a spa destination second to none. We often offer quick shoulder massages by trained therapists during meeting coffee breaks; have a team of reflexologists waiting at a post-trek reception through local rice terraces; or include spa sessions in the list of individual options to choose from on a free afternoon. Recently we designed a spa kitchen outing in which guests can receive hands-on lessons on how to make spa products from fruits, vegetables and local herbs.
There are direct flights into Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport from most of the key hubs in Asia Pacific, from the major carriers and some low-cost carriers.
However, demand is high and organisers should plan well in advance, especially from groups coming out of major centres such as Hong Kong and Singapore.
Bali has a tropical climate appropriate to its proximity to the equator. Year-round temperatures averaging 31 degrees Celsius. High humidity can be expected during the wet season between October and April. The dry season between May and September has also the lowest humidity.?The wet season brings daily rain and quiet overcast days with the most rain recorded between December and February.
Citizens of a number of Asian countries, particularly Asean member states, do not need visas but visas on arrival are available at the airport, costing US$10 for stays of seven days or less and US$25 for stays lasting up to 30 days. The Bali Hotels Association website at www.balihotelsassociation.com has a helpful list, if in doubt, check with your local Indonesian embassy or consulate.
UNUSUAL VENUES & ACTIVITIES
Rumah Bali and Bumbu Bali
Royal Balinese Night
Step into an authentic Balinese Cultural village designed to provide an unforgettable experience in a private retreat of the beautiful restaurant. Upon arrival you will be greeted by the beleganjur traditional music and lead you to the very special contemporary kecak dance, which is normally performed only on full moon. On the centre stage Balinese dancers will perform traditional routines.
Bumbu Bali Cooking school
Run by the same people as Rumah Bali every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, participants go to the local markets to purchase much of the produce for the day’s class. The team then returns to a specially designed kitchen preparing and grinding a minimum of 25 recipes. Classes are limited to 12 participants. Half-day courses are also available
Ku De Ta
Describing itself as an “architectural sanctuary”, this is one of the island’s most glamorous restaurants, with a strong reputation for its events creativity. This venue would suit a younger group which is looking for stylish international standards with a modern Balinese touch.
Very much for the energetic and adventurous, cycling tours of the island conducted by two-wheel travel specialist SpiceRoads can get your group riding on the edge of a volcanic crater and single track through the lava fields down to the pristine beaches, great for snorkelling and swimming.
A sailing catamaran, with passenger capacity of up to 110 people for Daylight Sensation or 50 people for Twilight Sensation, offers a wide variety of options for exclusive charter of the yacht and associated facilities, such as island orienteering, exclusive group activities, unique theme dinners with special menus and guest artists. The cabin interior can be redecorated to promote your chosen theme, incorporating your company logo and colours.
Bali Discovery Events
tel: +62 361 286 283
Pacific World Nusantara
tel: +62 361 282 474
Pacto Convex Bali
tel: +62 361 771 906 ext 595-8
tel: +62 361 703573