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January 2008 Occupancies at BTDC Running 10 Percentage Points Ahead of 2007.
Bisnis Bali reports that spirits are high at the Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC) - the Management company for the 350 hectare complex of hotels, championship golf course, and shopping outlets found within Bali's Nusa Dua Complex.
BTDC officials are reporting that occupancy levels in January among Nusa Dua Hotels averaged 83% - a significant improvement from the 63% occupancy logged in January one year before.
BTDC's President Director, Made Mandra, told BisnisBali that he linked his current success to the world's belief that Bali is safe, a fact underlined by the UN Climate Change Conference held in December 2007.
Mandra was also buoyed by renewed strength in the Japanese market, a development he thinks can be partially ascribed to the BTDC's recent hosting of a group of Japanese religious leaders who visited Bali.
Meanwhile, Gede Parmita, Director of Sales for the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa told BisnisBali that business has been booming since January with "almost every room full and occupancy running above 85%."
50 Years of Memories Pioneering Tourism on Bali's Sanur Beach.
Homesick for Bali in 1956, Ida Bagus Kompiang and his wife, Anak Agung Mirah Asthuti Kompiang, sold their successful export business in Surabaya and used the proceeds to purchase a hectare of land on Bali's Sanur Beach where they constructed 25 traditional bungalows and a small restaurant. A half century ago, Sanur was very much a sleepy seaside village with little grasp by anyone of what tourism actually entailed. In those early days, the Kompiang's only neighbors were a Belgium painter Le Mayeur, a Dutchman and a local cemetery.
"All our friends thought we were crazy," said Ibu Kompiang, who, together with her husband, introduced the then revolutionary 'Bali Nights' at the hotel which presented local cultural performances and a Balinese culinary experience via the megibung. Friends were also perplexed that the Kompiang chose to build their hotel close to the beach - a place traditionally regarded as the home of bad spirits and evil omens. And, in any case, why would anyone want to stay in such a place? While Bali had been receiving foreign visitors since the 1930s, the Second World War and Indonesia's ensuing fight for independence had all conspired to reduce tourism to a tiny trickle in the 1950s.
But, like Indonesia's First President, the Kompiang's shared a boundless enthusiasm for the Republic's future and a deep love for Balinese culture.
Over time, the Balinese friends who initially came to gawk and scratch their heads at the Kompiang's folly, came back to look for work as a steadily growing flow of celebrities and diplomats came to stay at the Segara Village Hotel. Ibu Kompiang fondly recalls guests who included many members of Jakarta's diplomatic community, official delegations led by President Soekarno, Charlie Chaplin who arrived with a private plane and the General Manager of Jakarta's Hotel Indonesia who stayed while he marked out the lot next door for the Grand Bali Beach Hotel.
Such was their success that Indonesia's first president, Sukarno, asked the Kompiangs to sell their hotel to the government to make room for the Bali Beach Hotel. They agreed and Bapak Kompiang was installed as the first general manager of the Bali Beach Hotel. Today, the original bungalows still form part of the Bali Beach Hotel complex and the current Segara Village Resort stands close to the original hotel.
Pak Kompiang is today a bright-eyed 80 year-old, who now turns his energies to other pursuits, including grandchildren and the veteran's affairs. Ibu Ayu Kompiang still keeps an active interest in the hotel, although most of the day to day running of the popular hotel is now in the hands of their son, Ngurah, a prominent leader in Bali tourism.
Determine to keep up with the times and Bali's increasingly competitive business climate, the 50-year-old Hotel is in the midst of a major renovation of all rooms and public areas in order to maintain their hard-fought status as a leader in Sanur tourism.
"Great job guys and gals... congratulations! Keep up the good work."
• Bali's world famous distance swimmer "Monte the Swimmer" – Monte Monfore chirped in :
"Congrats on 10 years and wish you 10 successful more! Thanks very much again for your continued support."
• Danny Tumbelaka of Datum Photography in Jakarta wrote:
"HAPPY 10th ANNIVERSARY...
Does not matter if you are 'naughty' or 'nice,' as
long as you deliver the truth . . .like you always do . . .
For sure that I am not the only one who is always. . .waiting for the next week edition of yours ...every week . . . Maybe because of the 'naughty' & 'nice' information you have been sharing...
Congratulations for all the achievements and keep on 'growing naughtily & nicely!'"
• George Fraser, Canberra's Man on the Island of Nauru and the former Consul General in Bali emailed :
"Congratulations. As you can see, I'm on another small island now but I still find it good to catch up with goings on there on my favorite island."
• Joan Davis, the manager of Bali New Wave in East Toukley, N.S.W., Australia offered the following encouragement :
"Om swastiastu all at Bali Discovery.
Besar congratulations on your 10th birthday…I would like to thank you all for your newsletter every week. I have found it so helpful and welcoming every week for the past 5 years to get news from 'home' . . .and feel like I am still part of Bali…matur suksma… Keep up the fantastic work and I wish you many more years of 'bisnis.'"
• Rose Coombes said :
"Congratulations on 10 years of unbiased and informative service. It is my way of keeping up with news and events in Bali. You do an excellent job!"
• Bernard suggests Bali Update provides news you may not find from other sources :
"You are in the 'nice' category, indeed!
I have been subscribing for many years now. I live in Bali but I always learn things that are happening and I was not aware of in spite of watching TV and reading newspapers.
Please, continue that way."
• David Hall, a prominent figure in Indonesian and Australian tourism wrote from South Australia :
"Congratulations on ten years of 'Bali Update' - well done to you and your team. I enjoy receiving and reading the many stories across such a wide range of topics and issues on beautiful Bali.
Here's to the next ten years!"
• Roger Kalhoefer in Bali contributed :
"Hearty congratulations are offered on reaching 10 years of Updates!! Here's hoping the next 10 are easier, and a little less quick for us!
I am still looking forward to receiving today's UPDATE!"
• Gerard Hoffman – a 6 time visitor to Bali from Holland offered :
"I hope the next ten years will be also successful. There are many Dutch people reading this Bali Update, it is good to feel home at this Bali-related site."
• Finally, Bernhard from Villa Lumbung warmly said :
"Congratulations to your 10th anniversary and our very sincere thanks for all the important information we were able to get from your newsletter in all those years. We hope you will be able to continue for a long time to come. Great job done: contents, form, style ... all very 'nice.'"
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Intercontinental Hotels to Manage 3 Properties in Bali.
IHG will Have Jimbaran, South Kuta and Sanur Properties in their Bali Portfolios by 2009.
The Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) has announced the signing of two new hotel projects in Bali – one on Sanur Beach and the other in South Kuta (Tuban), near Bali's airport.
InterContinental Sanur Beach Resort
The 104-room and suite Intercontinental Sanur Beach Resort will be managed on behalf of PT Restu Mahrani. The Sanur property which will also include 54 private villas is scheduled for opening in late 2009.
The initial preparation of the new hotel site has been plagued by disputes with local villagers in Sanur who have complained that local religious shrines have been improperly destroyed by the project's developers.
Holiday Inn Resort in Tuban
A 200-room property on a three hectare site, the Holiday Inn Resort in Tuban will represent an extensive refurbishment of former Bali Hai Resort. The South Kuta property will be operated on behalf of PT Menara Perdana and is slated for opening in late 2008. This will be the first Holiday Inn Resort branded property to open in Bali.
Intercontinental Bali Resort on Jimbaran Bay
The Intercontinental Hotel Group currently operates the 418-room InterContinental Bali Resort on Jimbaran Bay.
Commenting on the addition of two more hotels to the Intercontinental portfolio in Bali, Jan Smits, the Chief Operating Officer, Southern Asia and Korea for the company said: "Bali is one of Asia's most popular destinations, attracting high-spending leisure travelers, corporate meeting attendees as well as families. IHG already manages a successful InterContinental resort on Jimbaran Bay and with these two new hotels, our guests can look forward to more choice of accommodations across two brands in three unique locations."
A Gift of Life for Three of the Bali Nine
Life, 20 Years, Death and Now Back to Life in Jail – 3 of the 'Bali Nine' Get Their 4th Sentence Change from Indonesian Courts for Smuggling Heroin.
The Indonesian Supreme Court has commuted the death penalty for three of the infamous "Bali Nine." Matthew Norman, Si Yi Chen and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen saw the courts spare their lives with a ruling that will move them off death row in favor of life imprisonment.
Together with 9 fellow Australians, the three were arrested for trying to smuggle 8.2 kilograms of heroin into Australia via Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport.
Of the remaining 6 Australians - the one woman in the group, Renae Lawrence, received a 20-year sentence; two men – Michael Czugaj and Martin Stephens were sentenced to life imprisonment; while three more still remain under a pending death penalty.
An Emotional Roller Coaster
Matthew Norman, Si Yi Chen and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen – who have consistently maintained that their role in the crime were as simple couriers, were sentenced to life imprisonment at their initial trial. On appeal, this sentence was reduced to 20 years which, on the objections of Indonesian prosecutors and a further appeal was changed to the maximum penalty of death. The latest and presumably final ruling by the Supreme Court will spare the three's lives but place them behind bars for the rest of their lives.
Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and Scott Rush remain under a death sentence. None of the remaining three have commenced a formal appeal of their death penalty. While Chan and Sukumaran are characterized by authorities as the masterminds of the smuggling attempt, Scott Rush is widely viewed as a courier and a potential recipient of the leniency granted to his three fellow couriers this past week.
Seeking Recognition for Bali's Heritage
UNESCO Moving Closer to a Decision on Naming Jatiluwih, Pura Taman Ayun and the Pakerisan River Valley to the List of World Heritage Sites.
The Jakarta Post reports that a team representing Bali is expected to visit the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters in Paris soon in a continuing effort to lobby for three sites in Bali to be names as World Heritage Sites.
Following several miss-starts over the past 8 years that saw administrative mistakes thwart the application process, interested officials are renewing their efforts to have the Jatiluwih Rice Terraces in Tabanan, Pura Taman Ayun in Badung and the Pakerisan River valley in Gianyar named to the prestigious list of human and natural history sites marked for careful preservation.
A.A. Prana, a leader from Bali's tourism industry, told the Post, "This is a final interview that will determine whether the three sites should be honored as world heritage sites."
During an inspection visit conducted by UNESCO Ambassadors last year, the Bali applicants were reminded that a comprehensive management plan for the three sites demonstrating commitments from the government and the people in surrounding communities would play a major role in any final decision for Heritage Site status.
The Jatiluwih Site represents one of Bali's few remaining examples of the centuries old subak system of traditional water management embracing a 300 hectare area of rice terraces.
The Taman Ayun Temple is one of Bali's most popular tourist sites, located in the village of Mengwi. The temple was built in the 16th century and is an outstanding example of traditional Balinese temple architecture encircled by a moat.
The Pakerisan River in Gianyar near Ubud is located in the area of Bali providing evidence of earliest human settlement of the Island and is home to eight historical temples of Hindu and Buddhist origins that demonstrate the close link these two faiths enjoy in the evolution of modern Balinese Hinduism.
Why Bali Remains an Island of Outstanding Value for Americans, Japanese, European, Australians and British Travelers.
While much of the international economic news over the past few months offers little cause for cheer, the little noticed story is that Bali remains an island offering unparalleled value to travelers who purchase their travel in Pounds, Euros, Yens, Australian dollars and the Yankee dollar!
Bali, A Dollar Based Travel Product
Due to a unique peculiarity of Indonesian economic policy that renders the Rupiah technically "non-exportable" - virtually all hotels, villas, attractions, and tours sold operating in Bali are denominated in U.S. dollars. Contracts with Bali travel operators are almost universally written in dollars, a fact reflected in the fact that travel sites from Bali are generally quoted in dollars.
As an unexpected "benefit" of the failing fortunes of the U.S. dollar, Bali's place as an affordable destination for dollar earners and a real bargain for a whole host of other currencies has been preserved.
Consider the following:
• U.S. Dollars - Prices for Bali travel products continue to be priced in dollars, increasing only slightly despite the overall improved business climate on Bali, but remaining relatively stable overall against the U.S. dollar. Conclusion: Americans traveling across the Pacific will continue to find Bali an amicable value-for-dollar destination.
• Euros - With the Euro currently trading at record highs of US$1.537 against one U.S. Dollar, the Euro has appreciated against the dollar by almost +40% since January 2004. The same reason that sees Europeans flying across the Atlantic to do their shopping in the U.S.A., should also see Europeans coming to Bali for their next holiday.
• Great Britain Pounds - It currently takes slightly more than US$2.00 to purchase a British quid. This is a +25.63% increase in the value of the Pound since January 2004. It's also a tangible bonus for U.K. travelers destined for Bali and paying for their travel in U.S. Dollars.
• Australian Dollars - Plagued for many years with a weak Australian dollar that made Bali one of the few affordable overseas holiday destinations, antipodean travelers have seen their currency improve a whopping +54.9% against the U.S. dollar since January 2004. With the Australian dollar trading at AU$0.9296 to one U.S. dollars and buying around Rp. 8,436 – Bali has become even more affordable to its near neighbors from Down Under.
• Japanese Yen - Similarly, the Japanese Yen is currently trading at +16.39% more than it did in January 2004 with ¥102 buying one U.S. dollar. Japan retains its role as Bali's leading overseas market, a dominance likely to only improve as people with a "¥en" to travel take advantage of their buying power in Bali.
Bali Conference to Address Problem of Illiteracy Among World's Most Populous Nations.
150 officials from nine countries are expected in Bali this week at the Education for All Conference (EFA).
Scheduled to be held from March 10-12, 2008, the conference will be opened by Indonesia's Vice President Jusuf Kalla. The conference, first held in 1995, is dedicated to eradicating illiteracy, estimated to be as high as 70% in some of the countries participating in the Bali conference.
According to a conference organizer, the Bali gathering is targeting to produce a joint declaration to reduce the problem of illiteracy.
The nine countries represented at EFA are India, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Nigeria, Egypt and Pakistan. Each of these countries are "high population nations" where illiteracy, gender disparity and teacher training remain major concerns.
According to a statement issued by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): "Improving the number and quality of teachers is seen as a key to further progress and the subject is high on the agenda of this seventh meeting of the E-9 group. In some E-9 countries only 50% of teachers have received primary education training. Recognizing the critical role teachers play as catalysts for change, the meeting will thus concentrate on teacher education and training, highlighting individual country and regional experiences."
The EFA Conference will be held at the Bali International Conference Center in Nusa Dua.
Bali Makes a Peaceful New Year Transition
Over 4,000 Giants and Demons Strut Their Stuff on Bali's Streets on Nyepi Eve.
Over 4,000 giant floats or ogoh-ogoh depicting monsters, soccer stars, political figures and favorite rock stars took over streets across Bali on Nyepi eve, March 6, 2008.
Standing several meters high and built of papier-mâché by members of community banjars, villagers hoist bamboo platforms holding the colorful figures onto their shoulders and parade the streets of Bali. Late on the night before the day of island wide silence on Nyepi [See: Pause and Consider in Bali on March 7, 2008] the ogoh-ogoh are typically abandoned and occasionally set afire before revelers return to their homes to commence the 24-hours of silent contemplation.
Tempo Interaktif reports that the ogoh-ogah practice was alive and well this year in Bali, with an official police estimate of a 9% increase in the number of giant floats as compared to 2007.
The official count of ogoh-ogohs found the greatest number in Gianyar (1,072) followed by Denpasar (672), Tabanan (575), Bangli (258), Badung (527), Jembrana (250), Klungkung (215) and Karangasem (203).
Traditionally. ogoh-ogoh are representations of evil spirits, paraded and exorcised by Balinese on the last day of the old year.
Because of incidents over recent years, Island authorities have placed limitations on the Nyepi eve parades to avoid public disorder caused by public drunkenness and street battles between competing community banjars.
The peaceful celebration of the Balinese New Year this year was fortified by the deployment of 6,000 police officers across the island supplemented by local pacalang or volunteer peace officers.
Bali Seeking More Airport Fees from Visiting Tourists
Initial Efforts to Charge Additional Rp.10,000 on Departing Bali Passengers Gets Knocked Back by Jakarta Lawmakers.
Efforts by Bali's provincial House of Representatives to impose a "donation" on tourists passing through Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport has been strongly rejected by Jakarta who saw the imposition of an additional financial burden on Bali's tourists as unacceptable.
Quoted in NusaBali, a Balinese legislator who is a member of Commission IV of the National House of Representatives, I Gde Sumarjaya Linggih, said, "if we introduce another fee at the airport, this will not speed the growth of the economy but only serve to slow that growth – particularly in Bali's tourism industry."
Sumarjaya also pointed out that the proposed additional "donation" was against national laws governing state-owned enterprises which prohibit the imposition of provincial fees on those enterprises. Angkasa Pura - the authority that controls Bali's airport is a state-owned enterprise.
Meanwhile, a member of the provincial Bali House of Representatives, I Ketut Kariyasa, has responded by lambasting Sumarjaya's lack of effort to secure Bali a share of the current visa-on-arrival fees and airport service charge of Rp. 150,000 (US$16.30) for departing international passengers.
"Why don't our counterparts in the National legislature protest this?" asked Kariyasa.
Local Law Makers Undeterred
Despite a Jakarta rejection of a "donation" from Bali's departing passengers, local legislators have pledged to continue their efforts, insisting such a fee is in keeping with Indonesia's commitment to regional autonomy.
Proponents of the new fee claim the charge would be a "donation" and, as such, does not violate national law. Moreover, according to Sumarjaya, similar "donations" or "fees" were already being levied in other locations, such as Makassar and Banjarmasin.
In something of a seeming self-contradiction, Sumarjaya insisted the proposed Rp. 10,000 (US$1.10) "donation" would not represent a burden to tourist as it would be entirely voluntary; while, at the same time, proposing that the "donation" be included in the process that currently charges an airport service charge of Rp. 150,000 (US$16.30) to departing international passengers. The airport service charge is mandatory and must be paid by all departing passengers. How, exactly, a "voluntary" and a "mandatory" fee could be legitimately combined in a single levy remains unclear.
Intent on securing more money from Bali's tourism visitors, proponent of the additional charge have suggested levying the Rp. 10,000 (US$1.10) fee via local travel agents if efforts to secure via passenger flow-through at Bali's airport are unsuccessful.
Government Ask Garuda to Pack Their Bags for Amsterdam
Government Seeks to 'Fast Track' Removal of EU Blacklisting of Indonesian Aviation by Pushing Ahead with Plans to Resume an Amsterdam Service.
Bisnis Indonesia reports Indonesia's Director General of Air Communications, Budhi Suyitno, has asked Garuda Indonesia to begin preparing the infrastructure for resumed air service between Bali and Amsterdam. According to the report, the Government's view is that putting in place aircraft, manpower, ticket offices and other elements to support a Holland service will accelerate a lifting of the European Union "blacklisting" currently preventing Indonesian registered aircraft from flying over European airspace.
The Indonesian Government's urgings to the contrary, the greatest obstacle to Garuda's return to Europe may be the lack of suitable aircraft within Garuda's armada to operate the long-haul route. Airline officials have indicated that the best aircraft to fly the Amsterdam – Indonesia route would be a Boeing 777-300ER - an aircraft type not currently operated by Garuda.
Indonesian aircraft have been declared unsafe and banned from flying into European airspace since July 6, 2007, when the 27-member-country European Union first announced the "blacklisting."
Apparently, Indonesian aviation officials believe the removal of the "blacklisting" can be fast-tracked by announcing their intentions to resume commercial flight operations to Europe.
Such a strategy may, however, prove problematic as only 2 of the 27 European member nations need object for the "blacklisting" for the entire EU to remain in place.
EU Ban to be Discussed in July
Despite urgings from the Indonesian Government that the European Union review its current ban in April, it now appears almost certain that the Indonesian blacklisting will only be tabled for review at the July meeting of the EU Commission.
The EU Commission meeting scheduled for April 17th requires that a written report from Jean Pierre Ambrosini, the EU Aviation specialist assigned to Jakarta, be submitted before a pre-meeting deadline of March 15th. Because Ambrosini has only just started his Indonesian assignment it will not be possible for him to compile a detailed assessment of recent improvements in Indonesia's aviation security and safety procedures in time for the April gathering.
Indonesia and Australia Working on Prisoner Exchange Program that Will Assist Shapelle Corby and Members of the 'Bali Nine.'
Discussions underway between ranking Australian and Indonesian officials may eventually clear the way for a number of Australian prisoners now incarcerated in Bali to serve at least a portion of their sentences in Australia.
The Rudd Government is working behind the scenes to draft a prisoner transfer agreement that would allow convicted criminals held in each country to be transferred back home to serve their sentences closer to home.
While details of the agreement now under consideration are unknown, it is widely expected that prisoners may be required to serve at least half of their sentence in the country where the crime was committed and will not apply in situations where a case is still under judicial review. Those Australians facing a death sentence for crimes committed in Indonesia will also not be eligible for repatriation to Australia which has abandoned capital punishment.
Likely to eventually benefit from the proposed agreement are Shapelle Corby serving a 20-year sentence for smuggling 4.2 kg of marijuana into Bali and three of the "Bali Nine" who were convicted for trying to carry heroin into an Australia-bound flight from Bali's airport.
Whether or not Shapelle Corby would try to avail herself of a closer-to-home prison sentence remains unclear. In the past, her Mother expressed the opinion that prisons conditions were arguably better in the Indonesia, fearing her daughter might suffer sexual harassment in the Australian prison system.
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