by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua & Chief Marketing Officer, SITE
I’m in Bali at The Laguna, a Starwood / Luxury Collection property. As you can imagine, it’s pretty spectacular. It’s a 27 year old ocean front resort with 287 guest rooms and villas laid out around a luscious tropical garden dominated by a pool that meanders its way around the estate like a Venetian canal.
I’ve been in resorts like this before in the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawai’i, Langkawi but always for work. This time I’m on holiday with the younger half of my family. I must say it’s extraordinarily relaxing to stay at an international property with 5 star service standards mediated through the genuinely charming cheerfulness of the predominantly Balinese team here. While work matters are not front and centre in my mind these days, a number of business-related thoughts have surfaced.
Bali Business Events – Wearing multiple hats
Most tourist boards and destination marketing organisations (DMOs) segment markets into niche channels and build strategies to support their actions within these market niches. So they go after certain geographies – US, EU, Asia or segments – upscale leisure, LGBT, incentive etc. Obviously that’s an effective way to generate specific types of business but here in Bali I’m struck by the way the niches actually and naturally work in tandem.
My twin daughters have been backpacking in Bali for the past 3 weeks, staying in accommodations sourced on-line through booking.com, Airbnb etc. An older daughter, 26, has actually been here 3 times, her first visit when she was 20. This hyper-travelled generation, millennials who take the democratisation of travel totally for granted, will be incentive travel qualifiers tomorrow – the experience they have as backpackers today – for good or bad – will hugely influence their choices tomorrow.
Likewise, chatting randomly to others at the resort it’s obvious that many are corporate executives here for holiday. These, too, can so easily be the CEOs, marketers and other decision makers whose leisure / vacation experience defines their choice of the company’s incentive trip.
DMOs and hotels need to pay far more attention to the cross selling / future selling factor, ie, the reality that a visitor to a destination or resort, typically, has more than one persona and their current presence in the destination is, in fact, a marketing and sales channel in itself that’s usually overlooked.
Bali Business Events – An overnight success after almost 3 decades
The IMF World Bank Meeting will take place in Bali in October 2018. Organisers are estimating that as many as 15,000 people could pitch up in Nusa Dua for this annual meeting that discusses global financial and economic issues, including global economic outlook, poverty eradication, and aid effectiveness. The event rotates between the US (years 1 and 2) and another member state of the IMF in year 3. It’s in Nusa Dua for a bunch of reasons, most connected to a long term strategy that’s been evolving over almost 3 decades.
Back in the 70s the Indonesian government launched a masterplan to improve the overall quality of the tourism experience in Bali. Accordingly, 350 hectares of ocean front land were zoned for hotel development and today over 4000 four and five star guest rooms managed by such global brands as Accor, Marriott, Melia and Hyatt support a thriving inbound leisure and MICE market. Then in 2010 Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center (BNDCC) was added to the complex making Nusa Dua a fully integrated MICE zone located a mere 20 minutes from the international airport. Gated security into the zone provides added reassurance for organisers of Business Events and their delegates, qualifiers and attendees.
With the integrated development at Nusa Dua and its proximity to the international airport, Bali ticks the main boxes for destination selection – access, infrastructure, destination appeal, safety. In addition, as a lower cost economy when compared with other Asian conference hubs, Bali is extraordinarily competitive, offering great value to the MICE buyer both not-for-profit and corporate. But this doesn’t happen overnight – it requires vision, investment and the determination to be in for the long game.
Bali Business Events – Service is the secret
As a proud Irishman I’m keenly aware how seminal a role people play in the tourism experience – repeated research undertaken over decades with visitors to Ireland highlight “the people” as our salient asset over landscape and history / heritage. The challenge, however, has always been how to channel the 3 dimensional “people factor” into our 2 dimensional marketing and promotions – you can write about in your collateral, talk about in your destination videos, highlight it always and everywhere but you cannot make anybody feel it without being there, without real people, in real places, in real time.
This is arguably Bali’s biggest marketing challenge – its unique selling point is intangible as its USP is the Balinese people, wonderfully warm, gentle, humble human beings who ooze genuine friendliness and have a service ethos that’s driven by a real desire to serve, not score a gratuity. Even the hawkers selling stuff on the beach are non-aggressive, docile and totally charming.
On our last day in Ubud a bus was blocking the only road in and out of that wonderful town on a hill. Realising it could be hours before cars would pass the hotel again, the quick thinking receptionist marshalled the security guy out front and one the porters and they pitched up on their scooters to magic us down the hill, past the bus (one scooter at a time could fit past!) to where the receptionist had told our car to wait for us. Our luggage followed immediately conveyed on the same scooters. Throughout the entire operation everyone was in high glee, exuberant and exhilarated, enjoying the sheer fun of it all.
Bali is a special place – ask anyone who has been there. It’s incumbent now on those of us who’ve been there to spread the good news and make sure that the world of business events knows that Bali is indeed open for business.
Pádraic Gilligan, Pat Delaney & Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist marketing agency working with destinations, venues and hotels on strategy, marketing and training for Business Events.