In an exclusive interview with Bali Update and balidiscovery.com, the newly elected Chairman of the Bali Tourism Board (BTB), shared his views on tourism in Bali and the challenges ahead for BTB. A graduate engineer in textile and fashion manufacturing, "Pak" Putu also serves as the President Director of the Garuda Wisnu Kencana monument project and is the owner of the Mama & Leon Group, which holds diversified business interests in textiles, clothing manufacturing, and tourism.
Pak Putu, why do feel the first incarnation of BTB failed?
The goals of the old BTB were not clear and ideas and concepts were not coming from Bali's tourism industry. That will be the difference between the "old" BTB and the "new" BTB.
What are the short term goals of the BTB?
The 9 founding tourism organizations* of BTB share a common desire to build Bali tourism as a whole. They see a need for destination marketing, something that has been lacking in Bali so far. This is Bali's main problem at the moment: How to promote itself to the world in the current turbulent situation where Indonesia is suffering from a bad image as a terrorist country with a Moslem majority population. Bali has to determine how to reposition itself and regain the market share that has been lost.
Have any concrete strategic steps been identified yet?
We will sit together with all the stakeholders to make a detailed plan. This takes time, at least two months. What we can do right now is to build a better image for Bali by doing short-term promotions, producing professional press releases and participating in international events. We will hold a press conference in early April in Jakarta, which will be supported by President Megawati and her cabinet. At that event we'll invite the national and international press and the event will be organized by a professional PR company. We will use this event to tell the world what is Bali and why they should come to Bali.
We have also just received the news that the U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development scheduled for May 25 will be moved from Jakarta to Bali with 3,000 delegates and 3,000 other invited guests expected to attend.
Does Bali have the infrastructure to handle a conference of this size?
We have done a lot of compromise and we have held talks with the Minister of Politics and Security and the Minister of the Environment and, as a result, have devised ways to handle this number by using many radios and a number of venues simultaneously - such as using three major hotels in Nusa Dua and the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Monument to host events.
The largest venue at the BICC handles only 2,500 delegates, how will 6,000 people be accommodated?
This will be done using upgraded equipment from the Bali International Conference Center and broadcasting the event to three hotels in Nusa Dua. This conference will be good coverage for Bali.
What other short term steps will be taken?
Promotion at ITB Berlin will be run by one of our stakeholders, Bali Village, and we will also attend that event to sign a MOU with Garuda Indonesia offering special incentives to travelers from Europe visiting Bali, such the bonus nights and free night offers such as those made in the past by Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines.
Will such a promotion possibly alienate European Wholesalers who might feel that you are undercutting their contract prices?
We are not pushing every hotel to participate, making it a voluntary decision for each member of the industry.
What about rumors of a proposed promotion in New York City?
After ITB in Berlin, three representatives from BTB will spend 2 weeks in New York City starting from March 20 to promote Bali at the United Nations Building in conjunction Sustainable Development Conference scheduled for the end of May.
How will BTB be funded?
That's a good question - without money we can do nothing. This is a point I continually make to the stakeholders whose individual members are having their own financial problems. We have to be creative. That is why we need two months to devise a program a concrete program to offer to members and other companies. Once we have a concrete program we will present that program to the government and companies and ask them to prove their commitment to tourism promotion. I will ask large companies who derive benefit from tourism to support a number of major events that will provide revenue sources for Bali operators and BTB. We will also seek donations from "special members" - large Indonesian corporations.
How sophisticated is the level of understanding of tourism among policymakers, such as members of Parliament?
I see a great desire to learn about tourism among members of Parliament, particularly among the younger legislators. I am constantly being contacted by lawmakers seeing input on tourism issues.
You are the President director of the GWK Monument project. When is the scheduled completion?
During the ministerial meetings in May/June, where 150 countries will be represented, we are hoping that President Megawati will officiate at the official groundbreaking of the main GWK monument's construction.
Are there special security concerns for the May conference and the possibility they bring of widespread demonstrations?
This is the reason the conference has been moved to Bali which is much easier to keep safe. There will be 3,000 NGO's here. This is the decision of the President.
Any closing comments to offer as BTB's new chairman.
I just want to say to the people of Bali to believe, have heart, and work to make tourism the backbone of our economy. That is my big job I have with my team. I have to persuade them that Bali has to be kept internationally competitive.
* NOTE: The nine stakeholding organizations comprising BTB are: PHRI - the Indonesian hotel and Restaurant Association; ASITA - the association of Indonesian Travel Agents; Bali Village; Gahawisri - the Sea tourism association; HPI - the association of licensed guides; PATA Bali Chapter; PAWIBA - the tourism transportation association; SIPCO - the association of private conference organizrers; and PUTRI - the Association of Recreation Parks.
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