An exclusive interview with the man behind one of the most anticipated hotel launches in Bali
In the mind of Jefri Darmadi, CEO of PT. Jakarta Setiabudi Internasional Tbk. (JSI), every crisis is a learning opportunity for the industry. “It’s been a challenging time for everybody, but I’ve been trying to keep a positive mindset in all aspects,” he reveals. Moreover, he also shares that adaptability is the key for a business to be resilient. Speaking of which, his company – JSI is a real estate investment company and an operating holding company concentrating in the property and hospitality – is just about to add the highly-anticipated Andaz Bali to its portfolio.
Andaz Bali is a luxury lifestyle concept by Hyatt. Inspired by contemporary Balinese villages, the resort is surrounded by natural Balinese gardens and is located in the heart of Sanur, which is known for its charm and beaches.
On this occasion, we talked to Jefri Darmadi to find out more about Andaz Bali, the future of travel, and his views on other topics. Highlights of our exclusive interview:
First and foremost, congratulations! Andaz Bali is finally set to open. Could you tell us more about this property and what makes it special?
Andaz is a luxury lifestyle brand from Hyatt, and the word “Andaz” means “personal style” in Hindi. Andaz Bali will offer an immersive experience in a modern Balinese village setting for inquisitive travellers who like to experience local culture. There are 24 Andaz in the world. What makes it special is Andaz Bali will be the first Andaz in Indonesia and also the first Andaz resort in Asia.
What do you find most satisfying about seeing this project realised?
In spite of the pandemic, I am satisfied with the dedication and passion of our teams and partners to be able to finally launch the project in April.
Each Andaz hotel pays homage to its location. What is the philosophy behind Andaz Bali?
Andaz Bali was carefully built around existing mature vegetation that had been untouched for the past century, since we acquired the land in 1973. We manage to protect and conserve 70-percent of the existing vegetation, which lends the hotel a lush, welcoming ambiance. Furthermore, Andaz Bali’s inspiration comes from the its neighbour, a charming seaside village. We designed the hotel to portray what Sanur will be like in 20 years – a modern village where the past and present meet, that connect guests with local experiences and communities.
Aside to the pandemic, what has been the major challenges while setting up Andaz Bali?
There have been some challenges, but with our longstanding relationship with Hyatt and commitment from the team, we look at challenges as opportunities to grow. Due to the pandemic, there were some adjustments we made in the way we operate. We reset a few things so our customers would have a better overall experience and we are excited to be able to welcome our first guests soon.
On the other hand, what opportunities do you see for Andaz Bali as we enter the COVID-19 “recovery” period?
We know that Bali is very strong in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) as well as Free and Independent Traveller (FIT) segments. In the recovery period, we see Bali moved up three ranks within the list of top ten tech-friendly Indonesian locations in the 2021 Digital Competitiveness Index. The Government of Bali is giving its support with digitalization and the “Work From Home” policy. In addition, there’s an established expat community and growing food industry that is adding another dimension to broaden Bali’s economy and hospitality industry.
If these unprecedented times offer the opportunity for the hospitality industry in Bali to reassess itself, what do you think might the outcome be?
In my opinion, the pandemic has taught us that for a business to be resilient, we must adapt in terms of strategy and finances. It is very important to maintain high quality of service to our customers. We also must never forget the human side in a business. The future of the company depends on the people who drive them.
“We also must never forget the human side in a business. The future of the company depends on the people who drive them”
What do you think will be the long-term effect of COVID-19 on the industry?
For now, keeping the hotel experience safe for each guest is critical on the path to recovery. Basic COVID-19 protocols – washing hands, frequent disinfecting, practicing social distancing, and wearing facemasks – have become standard operating procedures. On the other hand, technology will have a significant effect on the industry. For example, robotics, AI and automation is being adapted in areas such as contactless check-ins, robots delivering food, and in areas of service, safety and hygiene, too.
On the other hand, what kind of recovery do you see for the industry?
To see how the industry recovers, we must look at indicators such as booking demands, international travel guidelines, country openings, vaccination progress, business recovery and interest rate. Having said that, we believe Bali will always be a key destination because of its rich culture, natural beauty and its established work force to serve tourists. In addition, the growth of sustainable tourism, I believe, will make Bali an ideal destination to prosper as well.
In your opinion, what does the future of travel in Bali look like in a post-pandemic world?
As I mentioned earlier, Bali has the potential to be a remote working destination and the island offers great work-life balance, something that appeals to the young generation from all over the world. With the advance of technology, we are moving to a more integrated working lifestyle. Hotels will not only cater to tourists but also people who work remotely – an emerging category with potential. In addition, Bali will continue to grow as demand for sustainable tourism grows as well.
As they say, every crisis offers learning opportunities for the industry. Personally, as a business man, what have you taken away from this crisis?
The most essential thing my father taught me is to have integrity and manage the balance sheet. This means focusing on optimizing versus maximizing opportunities to grow. Optimizing requires great discipline, because sometimes it means turning down interesting opportunities to preserve the company’s existence and continuity. As such, to ensure our integrity and balance, we have a clear work methodology which ultimately, leads to harnessing management’s collective experience as we execute.
As the CEO of PT Jakarta Setiabudi Internasional Tbk., how is your company preparing for a post-crisis world?
Our priority is to make sure we are still operating, across industries, post-crisis. This takes realignment at all levels: from strategy, objectives, benchmarks and how we use and assess our indicators. Having said that, specifically in the hospitality industry, digitalization is of the utmost importance. Through technology, we can create a lot of opportunities. One just needs to look at the big impact of tech companies in all industries and companies as well. Finally, we need to become more data-oriented to provide solutions for our tenants, provide service and facilities, allowing our various tenants to form relationships and synergies among themselves as well. Ultimately, sustainable success stems from being aware and serving the needs of the various stakeholders we serve and having a company culture that emphasises creative and forward-looking solutions.
What innovative guidelines did you come up during this time which you plan to continue even after the crisis is over?
Through the crisis, we learned that maintaining key talents and being cost efficient are instrumental. As a company, we need to be more dynamic, well-rounded and more structured. Get your priorities clear so you don’t miss opportunities. On a positive note, the pandemic has brought us all closer, and given us a different perspective on how to improve efficiency and productivity too.
Last but not least, when do you think will people feel that it’s safe to travel again? What are your predictions for travel in 2021?
I believe that with vaccination roll-outs, we will be seeing travel beginning to grow in the second quarter, due to business and tourist demand opening up. What remains to be seen is how “Work From Home” and digital disruption will impact customer behaviour. As such, what is the new norm? The hospitality industry will need to adapt too, since the functions of residential, office, hotel and retail spaces are now overlapping in order to provide consumers a comprehensive overall experience. Finally, COVID-19, has resulted in global acceptance that we need to create policies, regulations and best practices to pre-empt future outbreaks, which will create new norms on how we behave and socialize in open and closed spaces.