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Bali: An Island of Tall Stories

Editorial: Does Groundbreaking for The Jimbaran View Hotel Marks New Heights for the Bali Hotel Industry or New Heights of Exaggeration?

(2/21/2011) On Saturday, February 19, 2011, the groundbreaking ceremony for "The Jimbaran View" a new Harris Hotel was held in Ungasan, South Bali. Attended by the vice-regent of Badung, members of the Badung House of Representatives and other Bali dignitaries the the new 310 room hotel managed by Tauziah Hotel Management will be located near the Garuda Wisnu Kencana quasi-monument when it opens for business in December 2012.

On an island where real estate developers specializing in hyperbolical sales claims offer non-illegal "freehold" foreign ownership and questionable guaranteed rates of return, we have learned to take a grain of salt with pitches made by property developers, such as The Jimbaran View, that their property will be "tallest hotel" in Bali.

According to the Bali Post, the owner of The Jimbaran View, I.B. Surya Buana, boasted at the groundbreaking ceremony that "this hotel will be the tallest hotel in Bali because it is located on the Ungasan hill."

But, Wait Just a Minute

One might forgive Mr. Surya for his exuberance, especially on the happy occasion of the groundbreaking of his new hotel, but to claim ownership of what will be the "highest hotel in Bali" doesn't stand up in the light of day. Nor does it appear that the The Jimbaran View's claim of being the "tallest hotel in Bali" qualifies as a momentary misspeak. The very same "unique selling proposition" (as shown in the picture on balidiscovery.com) is also being shouted to passing motorists by from a billboard standing near Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport.

It Ain't Necessarily So

The Jimbaran View's claim to being the highest or tallest hotel in Bali just doesn't ring true, no matter from which angle you care to examine it.

Consider the following:

The maximum height allowed under law for any hotel in Bali is 15 meters. This is a long-standing zoning rule, further strengthened by the 2009 zoning law (RTRW).

Moreover, the sad fact of the matter is that there are a number of new hotels in Bali that have recently run afoul of the law by building properties that are "slightly" higher than 15 meters in height. Any boast to be building a physical structure "taller" than these hotels would effectively make such a hotel not only "the tallest" but, in terms of height violations, "the most illegal hotel in Bali."

The Grand Bali Beach Hotel, which opened in 1966, is a nine-story hotel and is indisputably the tallest hotel structure in Bali as measured in height above ground level. Bali's only "sky-scraping building" - the Grand Bali Beach so offended Balinese sensibilities when it opened that a law was passed in the 1960s stipulating that no future building would be allowed to stand higher than a coconut tree or 15 meters above ground level.

Apparently, in partial defense, Surya is claiming that The Jimbaran View will be the highest hotel by virtue of its hilltop location on the Ungusan peninsula. But this claim, if earnestly held by the hotel's developers, does not stand up to even cursory examination. The elevation of the Ungusan peak is 203 meters above sea level. Add 15 meters for building height (because that's the law) and The Jimbaran View's total height comes to only 218 meters above sea level. Considering that there are certainly 15 meter high hotels already standing in Ubud (207 meters above sea level), Kintamani (1,330 meters above sea level) and Bedugul (1,500 meters above sea level) it become difficult to fathom how The Jimbaran View can possiblly defend its claim as "the tallest hotel in Bali" as measured in height above sea level.

In fact, in order to truly be the tallest hotel above sea level in Bali while standing on a 203 meter high hill in Ungasan, the owners of The Jimbaran View would have to erect a very, very tall hotel likely to raise havoc with the traffic pattern of the nearby Bali airport. By our calculation, The Jimbaran View would have to stand more than 1,200 meter's above ground level to truly qualify as the tallest hotel above sea level in Bali. Setting aside the legalities of such a tall building for the moment, to build such a building would make The Jimbaran View the tallest structure the world, surpassing even the current record-holder - Burj Khalifa, a skyscraper in Dubai that stands 828 meters.

The tallest hotel in Bali exceeding 15 meters above ground level? We hope not, for that would be clearly illegal.

The tallest hotel in Bali because of its hilltop location? We doubt that, too, for that would be both illegal and implausible.

Obviously, we're confused. We'd welcome a clarification that can share with our readers and help set the record straight on whether or not The Jimbaran View will truly be the tallest or even the highest hotel in Bali.

If, as we suspect, the claim made on the billboard is a stretch on the truth, we urge the owners spend at least an equal amount of time and money setting the record straight as they have expended on what appears to be a misleading marketing slogan on their airport billboard.

Good property developers, after all, value "the truth" above all else in their representations to the public.