Nigel Gaunt is the Managing Director of The Mint Organization - a leading international corporate meeting and incentive operator with offices in Melbourne, Sydney, and Singapore. On June 27-30, 2003, he made a flying visit to Bali, making time for an exclusive interview with balidiscovery.com to share his thoughts on Bali as an international conference and incentive destination.
QUESTION: Why are you in Bali?
ANSWER: Bali has been – and will become again – one of the world's leading incentive travel destinations. I feel it's important that the Indonesian industry and their overseas partners do whatever possible to return Bali to its former status. As I commute regularly from Singapore to Australia, it's relatively easy to drop into Bali and see how things are progressing.
QUESTION: When was the last time you visited Bali?
ANSWER: The last time I was her was in December, just 2 months after the bombing, when Bali was still clearly in shock. Now, I can say the tourism industry is anxiously awaiting a recovery, which it justly deserves but has yet to happen.
QUESTION: What can Bali do to accelerate its recovery?
ANSWER: In the same way that Singapore and Hong Kong have appropriated large sums of money to re-launch their destinations after SARS, so too must the Indonesian government recognize the valuable contribution tourism has to make to the national economy and allocate similar funding to restart Bali tourism.
QUESTION: Obviously you like Bali. What are Bali's major selling points that you present to your clients?
ANSWER: Bali has 4 major selling points that remain undiminished. First, Bali's people and their rich cultural traditions; second, the excellent resorts and hotels available in Bali; third, the excellent value for money Bali offers to visitors; and, fourth, the numerous program inclusions that can be incorporated into a Bali travel program that make visits to Bali unique and memorable.
QUESTION: So those are the opportunities. What, in your opinion, are the threats that Bali faces?
ANSWER: There's really one that stands out. If recovery doesn't come in the next four months there will be many tourism-related businesses that will not survive. During my brief visit I've seen some evidence that the past months of operating losses have severely affected the product and services offered to visitors. Those products and services can readily be restored provided a return to prosperity is achieved in the short term.
It would be a crime of global proportions if we allowed Bali's excellent tourism infrastructure to suffer irreparable damage and the loss of jobs to escalate further when, in fact, there is no rational basis for people not to return to Bali.
Bali is as safe as any other destination in Asia. And, indeed, Bali may be much safer than many big cities around the world.
QUESTION: When is the next Mint Group coming to Bali?
ANSWER: In the past few days we have made a decision in consultation with one of our biggest clients to bring an important group to Bali in the first quarter of 2004.
I hope there will be more groups coming to Bali to enjoy the destination and help restore the economy for the local Balinese.
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