The beachside resort’s newly appointed General Manager speaks about adapting to the pandemic, supporting the wider community, and its 10th anniversary celebrations.
You previously led the team at The Westin Ubud, which did not close during the pandemic and has recorded the highest occupancy of all 23 Marriott properties on Bali. What do you think were the key factors behind that success?
The main factor was the hotel team; they did an amazing job managing the uncertainty of the pandemic together with the need to move forward. The approach of the team was very agile, knowing that the situation could change any day and very forward thinking. In the beginning, when most properties where closed, we focused on Bali residents. We felt that many people in Bali were looking for a healthy and energizing place to spend a few days and our property suited this need perfectly. We also started to look for local partners that helped us engage with our guests while giving the property market exposure.
When domestic travel became possible, we built on this and found partners that helped us reach markets such as Jakarta and Surabaya. I believe this approach was the main reason for the success. Guests could see that the property was open and ready to welcome them and we had the opportunity to build partnerships and work our way through the pandemic.
What was the ratio between local and international guests at The Westin Ubud before March 2020? Did you feel it was a particular challenge to shift the focus entirely toward domestic travelers?
The property only opened on December 29, 2019, so we were in our third month of operation when the pandemic started to effect Bali tourism. When we opened the hotel, we did see a huge demand for international tourism and had a very successful first month of operation. During February and March, we saw that our international business pace was slowing down and we developed an aggressive campaign to focus on domestic tourism. As the property was new, this wasn’t easy. However, as more hotels closed down, we used the opportunity to establish our property and build our reputation.
W Bali has a reputation for hosting fun-filled social events throughout the year. How have the arrangements been adjusted while masks and social distancing remain de rigueur?
We have been very cautious in our approach and ensure we followed the prevailing health guidelines. At the same time, we want to live up to our reputation. This year marks our 10th anniversary and we cannot let that go unnoticed. We organized a 10-day Epic Ten celebration back in March and have planned more celebrations every month for the remainder of the year. We have brought back our Saturday Sunset Sessions in Woobar and our Sunday Brunch in Starfish Bloo, both respecting social distancing and promoting mask wearing.
With remote working still being practiced in cities like Jakarta, is the resort offering any extended stay packages?
Our Work from W promotion offers guests exciting benefits while enjoying everything the W Bali has to offer. We have been working with an array of international and domestic guests on a long stay program where they live and work at the W Bali – Seminyak. It’s been a great success and we have since had many enquiries about living in either our Escape hotel rooms or Villas.
Are there any improvement works in the pipeline?
The team is developing an exciting new concept for our ICE bar that should be rolled out during the next few months. At the same time, we have an ongoing soft renovation plan in place in order to keep the property well-maintained.
Ongoing border closures have severely impacted the lives of so many Balinese workers. What community initiatives is W Bali engaged in these days?
W Bali has been working with S.O.S. (Scholars of Sustenance) to providing them with food produce daily. SOS feeds local communities and people in need across the island and we are one of their main sponsors and partners; we will continue to work with them even after the pandemic. We will later this month also be partnering with Sungai Watch to make sure our rivers in Bali stay free of rubbish and the beaches stay clean! We have a very dedicated team on property that is always looking to support our community and each other.
The vaccine rollout plays a big part in Bali’s planned reopening in the coming months. How is the uptake among staff members at the W?
We are very pleased to say that 100 percent of our eligible talents have already received their first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, and the second round of vaccination is planned for the end of June. We believe this will indeed play a big part in bringing back international tourists in a safe and responsible way. At the moment the recovery is going well and we are seeing a month over month improvement; should borders open soon, we are confident that we will see a better second half of 2021.