National lead out of sight

Bali is already a hit with meeting and incentive planners, but the lack of a CVB to lead congress bids is hurting this segment’s potential to grow

Pura Besakih is one of the most revered Hindu temple in Bali

Bali has proven itself as a versatile destination, winning the hearts of both holidaymakers and planners of business events and association congresses.

Pura Besakih is one of the most revered Hindu temple in Bali

According to event specialists, the Indonesian island is the country’s best destination for global gatherings, considering its supply of convention centres, unique event venues and plethora of hotels of various star ratings and price points.

Susilowani Daud, president director of Pacto Convex, added that Bali’s culture is a huge selling point – besides congress content – that association congress planners can leverage to attract participants.

A relaxing dining event by the beach, a Balinese dinner fit for royalty at a rajah’s palace, or a gathering with a musical dance drama for entertainment are some examples of memorable experiences that can be enjoyed in Bali.

Although countries tend to attract associations related to their key industries, Bali, which isn’t known to be an industrial city, has managed to secure gatherings of various industry specialists, from medical and healthcare congresses to mining meetings and oil and gas conferences.

Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center alone has hosted several meetings led by associations representing medical, fishery and palm oil industries.

Yasinta Hartawan, general manager of operations, told TTGassociations that medical conferences formed the largest segment of association meetings for the venue in 2015, contributing to 17 per cent of total revenue.

Based on current forward bookings, medical conferences look set to bring yet another good year to Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center, revealed Yasinta.

She has also observed growing interest in Bali among corporate and association planners in China, a source market that has also grown in size for Bali’s inbound leisure arrivals.

She noted that the 13th World Chinese Entreprenuers Convention last year, organised by the Indonesian Chinese Entrepreneur Association for some 2,500 participants, was one of the biggest association meetings for Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center.

While Indonesian event specialists are generally confident about association congress business in Bali going forward, some remarked that the Island of the Gods must first cross several hurdles.

Susilowani said: “Bali is competing with Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan when it comes to bidding for association conferences. While Bali may be top in components like venues, hotels, infrastructure and attractions, (clients are) often hurt by (high) prices.”

She added that the Indonesian government also do not offer support and incentives to the tourism and MICE industry as well as organisers of events in Bali, unlike the governments of other countries that are keen on building a strong business events sector.

The absence of such support as well as a convention bureau is a major obstacle for Bali in its quest for more association events, according to John Daniels, president director of Bali Discovery Tour.

He said: “We have had discussions for years about the need for a convention bureau and today we still don’t have one.

“To get an association meeting, the destination needs to invite the (congress organising committee or association representatives) to come for a hosted site visit, to see the available facilities and to answer questions they have on infrastructure and transportation, etc. Only when they find Bali suitable for their event will the DMCs, hotels and venues bid.”
Without a convention bureau taking the lead, industry players have to fight to get the business themselves.

Susilowani agreed, saying that efforts to garner support from government agencies and the Indonesian embassies overseas in congress bidding have mostly been in vain.

Daniels revealed: “I once handled a major conference from Europe and there was no government involvement at all. If it had been in Singapore or Malaysia, (the governments) would have sponsored the opening cocktail or inspection trip.”