Conference Market Turns to Bali: Special Report

Airlines, hotels and tour operators are labelling Bali as one of the hot spots for overseas Australian conferences as the Indonesian holiday island becomes more affordable for groups by the month.

By James Wilkinson in Bali

Airlines, hotels and tour operators are labelling Bali as one of the hot spots for overseas Australian conferences as the Indonesian holiday island becomes more affordable for groups by the month.

With increased air capacity and the opening of new hotels, Bali has come full circle for Australians since the terror attack of 2002.

MICE hot spot: the Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali

The upbeat mood  was exemplified on Friday (Apr 24) when the island’s newest hotel – Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali – opened to much fanfare at a glamorous event that captured the attention of Bali’s tourism industry.

More than 600 dignitaries, travel professionals, media, conference organisers and meeting planners converged on the resort for the opening, which saw performances by local dance troupes and bands along with a fireworks display.

Holiday Inn Resort Baruna Bali general manager Stephane Varoquier told SpiceNews the opening of the resort also doubled as a showcase to conference organisers of what could be offered for events at the property.

He said the Australian market would be key focus for the resort in 2009 for both large group bookings and individual travellers alike. “The MICE market out of Australia is a key target for the resort this year,” he said.

The resort, which opened its doors only three weeks ago, has already had strong interest from down under, with around 50 per cent of bookings at present coming from Australia.

“We could even go up to 70 or 80 per cent (of bookings) as the demand from Australia is very high,” Varoquier said.

The strength of the Holiday Inn brand, Varoquier said, was one of the main reasons for the strength of Australian market and he expected to have a strong MICE market response on the back of the leisure bookings.

Located on three hectares of tropical gardens between Ngurah Rai International Airport and Kuta, the contemporary-styled resort features 195 rooms and conferencing facilities for up to 300 delegates.

The first new-look Holiday Inn Resort in the world (the brand has been undergoing a revamp since late 2007), the property also features two restaurants, a pool with a swim-up bar and a Tea Tree branded day spa.

“Here we offer great value, reasonable prices and almost 5-star service,” Varoquier said.

Value for money is also being seen currently in the way of flights to Bali, with Garuda Indonesia, Jetstar and Pacific Blue experiencing strong bookings to the island from Australia.

The launch of Pacific Blue flights in late-2008 and high load factors on Garuda Indonesia have both contributed to the strong growth of the Bali market, which now counts Australia as the number one inbound market.

In January, Australia recorded 27,873 visitors arriving in Bali, ahead of 25,324 for visitors from Japan, according to the Bali Government Tourism Office.

“Last year Bali achieved record numbers of visitors, including a 51 per cent growth in arrivals from Australia (and) the first quarter of 2009 has shown a 26 per cent growth in Australian visitors,” said a spokesperson for Garuda Indonesia.

“Given the current global financial crisis, this is particularly encouraging and reinforces our belief that Bali is well placed to weather the impact of the crisis.”

Garuda Indonesia recorded strong MICE market bookings from Australia in 2008 and that trend is expected to continue over the course of this year.

“Last year saw a growth in interest from the MICE market with a marked increase in the number of quotes being requested,” the spokesperson said.

“The increased interest is encouraging and, with the value of Bali well established, the financial crisis will certainly add to the island’s appeal as a MICE destination.

“However, this market is particularly sensitive to the level of the travel warnings so, unless there is a review of the current levels, it may be some time before the full potential of the MICE market is again realised.”

And in a further boost to the Bali MICE market, Pacific Blue will commence direct flights from Melbourne and Sydney on June 1.

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