The man behind Jimbaran Hijau Development Area and its latest project – Raffles Resort Bali – chats about change and new opportunities
In the eyes of Putu Agung Prianta, the CEO of Jimbaran Hijau, the world has been slowing down for a while and it’s shifting into a different kind of normal. “Despite all of that, my team and I have been working harder than ever to overcome the challenges in establishing this new work-live-play-learn destination in Jimbaran, Bali,” he expresses. Of particular note, his company has just opened the lavish Raffles Bali. This was the first Raffles establishment in Indonesia’s famous tropical paradise as well as the 15th Raffles Hotel in the world. The venue offers unparalleled views over the Indian Ocean and – naturally – the famous Jimbaran Bay sunsets.
Furthermore, Prianta also shares about his company’s missions, which is to serve Bali as the aforementioned live-work-play destination, to strive in making a vibrant inclusive tech creative community and also to build villages centred around a green and healthy lifestyle. “Leaving a legacy through village creation, that’s our vision,” says Prianta. We talked to the Bali-based CEO about the opening of Raffles Resort Bali, the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the industry, and many more. Highlights of an exclusive interview:
First of all, you’ve just opened the Raffles Resort Bali. Could you tell us more about this property and how it is going so far?
We are the 15th Raffles in the world, the flagship of the Raffles Emotional Wellbeing program worldwide. Located at the Jimbaran Hijau Development area, with just 32 private pool villas, Raffles Bali epitomises distinguished charm for well-travelled connoisseurs seeking elegant and generous spaces, privacy and cultural discovery.
It was a very brave decision to open the resort during this pandemic. Overall, how this experience been for you?
We are a firm believer of the resilience of the travel industry. The pandemic has given us enough time to curate every guest experience for future travellers.
What are some of the major challenges you encountered while setting up Raffles Resort Bali?
The pandemic might have slowed down our efforts to establish the resort as the ultra-luxury addition to Bali in the international market. However, it has given us the opportunity to display the resort to high-net-worth individuals (HNWI) and well-travelled Indonesians.
Speaking about challenges, how has it been for you navigating the pandemic? How do you and your team make decisions?
The pandemic has urged us to think out of the box, leaving the old and embracing new ways. Positive and open communication within the team is the key to be able to make decisions quickly and accurately.
On a more general note, how has COVID-19 affected your company and its projects? Like the Jimbaran HUB, Jungle Play, Karting Star Bali Gokart, Royal Tulip Resort, Puri Bhagawan, and Damara Village…
As we all know, the biggest impact of COVID-19 was felt by the tourism industry, mostly in international tourism. Therefore, Jimbaran Hijau has shifted its focus into products and services which also caters to domestic demand, such as creative community hubs and residences.
If this moment offers an opportunity for the hospitality industry in Bali to reassess itself, what do you think might be the outcome for the industry?
Bali was hit the hardest among all provinces in Indonesia; the economy shrunk about 9 percent in 2020. This fact has given us a wake-up call that Bali has to diversify its economy into non-tourism based. Secondly, Bali also needs to diversify its tourism target towards the domestic market. And lastly, Bali needs to shift from mass-tourism into creative and alternative, more segmented tourism. Industry players – tour operators, destination management companies, and other stakeholders – are predicting that, post pandemic, travellers, especially the well-travelled and affluent segment, will seek boutique-size resorts and island destinations that offer curated experiences related to wellness and local traditions. Our projects are well curated, diversified, and positioned to provide holistic experiences for all range of interests, including Raffles Bali.
“We are a firm believer of the resilience of the travel industry. The pandemic has given us enough time to curate every guest experience for future travellers”
What innovative solutions did you come up during this time which you plan to continue even after the crisis is over?
We have expanded our partnership model from B2B to our B2C platform by initiating collaborative networks and community engagement, starting with a small bazaar to support small local industries, called “Pasar Republik,” which turned some of the bazaar participants – who mostly lost their jobs in pandemic – into business partners of Jimbaran Hub activity programs, such as JET Bike Park, Life Skill Academy, Content Making, and Podcast Studio. As a result, with the fast-growing consumer database, we are digitalizing our processes to enhance consumer experiences, which we plan to continue into a digital community hub in future.
What do you think will be the long-term effect of COVID-19 on the industry?
It will bring higher standards of sustainability, like locally sourced produce; also, seasonal offerings. Travellers will focus more on health and safety protocols. They will only embark on journeys that matter, are impactful, and are more related to their hobbies, interests and their own wellbeing.
On the other hand, what kind of recovery do you see for the industry?
I think it is going to be a gradual recovery, mostly initiated by the luxury and wellness-seeking segment, who still have the resources to travel. Then, maybe from the business segment, and last will be MICE and mass travellers.
Personally, as a business man, what have you learned from this crisis?
Change is constant. A positive mindset to any type of change is important to lead the team in embracing the change. That, along with empathy, clarity of mind, forward thinking and decision making. At the end of the day, I always believe change brings new opportunities. There is no comfort in the growth zone, and there is no growth in the comfort zone.
What do you think will the future of travel in Bali look like in a post-corona world?
I think it’s going to be more segmented, more sustainable and impact-oriented as opposed to mass tourism. There are plenty of good lessons for all segments of the tourism industry.
How has your company prepared for the post-crisis world?
The post-crisis outlook seemed to be leaning into more residential projects for now and also near future. Meanwhile, we are preparing for hospitality projects that we expect to start picking up about next year.
What will be your strategy to drive business once you open?
Always be prepared. Find new products that can enhance new destinations, bring something new and stay agile. Try to answer main issues. For example, I learned that Bali has narrow roads and many destinations lack parking spaces. In our case, we make the roads slightly wider and parking slightly easier, while keeping the trees and promoting sustainable practices, as I am also the head of the Bali office of Green Building Council Indonesia.
Last but not least, this may sound clichéd, but what are your hopes for the rest of 2021?
I hope that Bali can be re-opened soon. We still need a firm and clear decision by government leaders and policy makers. The central government’s understanding of what Bali is experiencing right now and the urgency to open Bali as a destination is crucial. I believe a lot of travellers want to get out of their pandemic cocoon, following the success story of the Maldives. But, more importantly, we need to get Bali’s economy wheel to start turning again.