Time to slow down, Bali operators warn
The heads of two of Bali’s hottest properties agree on one important thing: it’s time for the Island of the Gods to slow down and consolidate after massive growth in room numbers in the past few years.
Lunch Magazine spoke with Craig Seaward and Raymond Saja, the heads of W Seminyak and Karma Kandara respectively, about the future of tourism on the island.
“Having lived here for many years and seen the rapid growth taking place since the early 90s, I feel Bali needs to slow the growth of development in line with demand and balance the need for good infrastructure and utilities, roads, urban planning, water and electricity to match the development taking place,’’ said Mr Seaward, the general manager of the recently opened $114 million W Spa and Retreat Seminyak.
“Who would ever think that we would get an elevated toll road in Bali. It seems disconnected for this amazing island, but soon to be a reality. It will be a sad day for Bali.’’
The new elevated tollway connecting Sanur and Nusa Dua-Benoa will commence construction in late 2011. Current estimates are that the project will require 18 months to complete. Developers are hoping to have the new tollway online in time for the 2013 APEC summit.
Mr Saja spoke in similar terms about the need to slow down, albeit about the infrastructure needs of a different region, Kandara, where his amazing resort straddles a lush jungle ravine on Bali’s southern coast.
“Bali is in a bit of a limbo period right now. Some of the areas are transitioning,’’ Mr Saja told Lunch Magazine.
“Specifically this southern region. Right now we have a bunch of luxury properties here but we don’t have the local town developing.
“But that will happen. We will get small independent restaurants opening up and we will have a small Seminyak area as more volume and traffic comes to the area- it has already started.
Mr Saja said the main problem was getting people to Bali to use all the additional room nights that had been created.
“This airport is tapped out at the moment, but they’re going to build an airport in north Bali, which will increase arrivals dramatically.’’
“Also when they build a bigger airport there will be long haul flights landing here.’’
He said the impact of the new cruise ship terminal in eastern Bali would be “huge’’.
“It’s all based on demand. Singapore Airlines runs four or five flights a day alone.
“During the high season you can get a room but you can’t get to Bali. That’s why they have to stop building. We have enough room nights to cope with demand for the next five years.’’
Both men also agree on the amazing resilience of the Bali tourism market.
Mr Seaward said: “Bali is a resilient destination and has recovered strongly since the Bali bombings in October 2002 and 2005.
“Its strong international appeal, diversity of culture, value for money and proximity to Asia and Australia is driving the demand and at present the island is doing very well indeed. Record numbers have been arriving in Bali with Australia now being the number one feeder market to the island. Obviously the strong Australian dollar is having a positive effect making for a great value for money holiday in paradise for the Australian market.’’
Mr Saja agreed: “It’s going from strength to strength.’’
“From what I’ve seen, Bali continues to rate as the No 1 island destination in the world in various publications.’’
He said things like the novel and movie Eat Pray Love also helped a lot.
“The Australian dollar being so strong at the moment means it’s significantly cheaper for Australians to come to Bali than go to a neighbouring state.
“There are always things that are upsetting but the business bounces back. Bali has proven to be amazingly resilient.
“Just when I think they are going to stop building hotels more and more of the big guns come in. It does a lot for the destination as well to have some of the big brands like W.
“For them to come in is huge. People say if there’s a W there I’ll go.
For example if they build a W at Koh Samui, and I guarantee the American market does not know Koh Samui, but if there’s a W there it draws attention to it.’’
W’s Seaward said the property brought a new style of hotel to Bali.
“We own this space at present, as we are so very different and distinctive from the other properties on the island,’’ he said.
“W tends to help develop the locations/destinations we open in, and I think that we are doing that for Seminyak at present with all the development happening on the roads around the hotel. This is good in that it offers guests more choices and opportunities in close proximity to the hotel be that shopping, restaurants or entertainment.’’
“We have had an amazing take-off, and the last 5 months have been fantastic for a newly opened hotel. We are already topping the 55 per cent occupancy mark and the balance of year bookings are looking strong … watch this space!’’
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