Veteran Dutch hotelier Robert Lagerwey has accepted a new position in Singapore's luxury hotel sector after five years in Bali opening the Bulgari Resort Bali. A distinguished hotelier who has worked in a wide range of hospitality roles in Bali, Singapore, South Korea, the U.S.A and the U.K., Robert played an activist role in Bali tourism serving as both the Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the Bali Hotel Association (BHA).
He paused from a hectic schedule of packing to speak briefly with John "Jack" Daniels of www.balidiscovery.com.
The Interview: Robert Lagerwey
Balidiscovery.com: At what point of development did you join the Bulgari Resort Team?
Lagerwey" I joined the Bulgari Team from day one and was part of the construction and conceptual phase of the project.
Basically, we had a dream which came to fruition beyond our expectations. It was not an easy ride, of course. Once you put a big brand on your front door, expectations are set. We learned a lot and applied this everyday, humbly so. In Bali there are so many great hotels and we are proud to have earned a spot within this group.
Balidiscovery.com: 5 years in Bali and at the resort - what's the legacy you'd like to remembered for at that property?
Lagerwey: Legacy is a big word...I would like to be remembered as "Bapak Robert" who was there for the team. Without them no success would have been achieved. They made it happen and I am eternally grateful how they embraced my family on this journey.
Balidiscovery.com: Any parting suggestions or comments for those in charge of Bali's tourism product?
Lagerwey: Yes. As discussions have been taking place on forming an overriding Tourism Board/authority where all stakeholders are part, cohesive incremental efforts can improve how we market our destination.
It still is hard to see destinations such as Singapore - "Uniquely Singapore"; Malaysia - "Truly Asia" ; India - "Incredible India" being marketed and positioned in such a way that they can take some of our business. Bali has something to offer for every budget and taste and has so much more to offer than any of the mentioned destinations. There is still work to do, but having said that, there are many of us that are doing a lot to make a change. It just needs to be streamlined more as we are leaving money on the table.
One area where Bali could become the example to the world is in going greener and becoming more sustainable. Shortages in water and electricity will not disappear. We have to change our ways.
Balidiscovery.com: Has the changing world economy altered the way Bali must do business in the future?
Lagerwey: We have to be mindful that we continue to provide the best value proposition in Asia. With costs creeping up year on year for imported products, electricity, water etc we are in danger to lose our pole position.
I think in general Bali Hoteliers have been very nimble in how they do business and adapt to changing times easily. The Bali Hotel Association, with your help, has tried to unite stakeholders more so instead of under-cutting each other, more teamwork yielded some incremental results, such as the "Bali Bonus Nights Promotion."
There is still a lot of work to be done.
Balidiscovery.com: What are the medium and long term prospects for the luxury hotel sector?
Lagerwey: Medium prospects are still fairly good, but we have to be mindful that there is a saturation of the top tier luxury hotels. This means an over-supply which has to be managed carefully for any future expansions on the island. Also, the infrastructure in Bali can only support a certain amount of tourists and we have to keep this in mind. The plans and work on the Airport are a major step forward and we certainly do applaud the government for moving this forward.
I see more opportunity in the mid segment of the luxury hotel sector, where guests have a wow for a rate that compares favorably to anywhere in the world. Perhaps with limited services as there are plenty of free standing Spas and Restaurants, so more focused on the room product itself only. As you asked before, the world economy and dynamics have changed, and the value for money proposition will remain the single most important factor to grow our businesses.
With China coming online now, and the increased tourism arrivals from other emerging markets puts pressure on the average length of stay and average spend per guest in Bali. We have to tailor our products further to ensure we serve these customers better but also sell in a way where they will choose to take a longer vacation in Bali - combining their stay in various properties - rather than one. Help them discover what Bali has to offer.
Balidiscovery.com: What will you miss most about Bali?
Lagerwey: The inspiring environment and beautiful people that truly make a difference. Bali really brings the best out of you and this is really not something you will find anywhere else in the world. It is a magical place.
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