Performance of MICE business in Bali was mixed last year due to economic and political uncertainty, but hotels generally expect the growth momentum they have enjoyed since the Apec Summit in late 2013 to continue this year.
In 2015, MICE business was relatively slow due to the economic turmoil, new government policies and force majeure events, according to Bipan Kapur, managing director of The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, which manages the Bali International Convention Centre that seats up to 2,500 people for meetings.
Business this year, however, looks very promising, with current business on the books exceeding last year's MICE figures, he says.
Kapur believes Bali is standing firm as the preferred MICE destination in the Asia-Pacific region with its complete facilities, accessibility, government support and the passionate Balinese people.
"With the new government in place, we think this is the moment for Bali to spread its wings and to establish the Bali Convention Bureau so as to have the opportunity to bid and host more international associations' business," he says.
Kapur's views were echoed by Dario Orsini, general manager of Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort. "Last year was very unstable due to external factors such as currency conversions and natural disasters. For this year, while we still expect uncertainties, we are also expecting to see a slow and stable improvement," he says.
Adhiyanto Wongso, director of communications for The Mulia and Mulia Resort & Villas - Nusa Dua, also expects Bali's MICE business will be on the rise.
"We have seen more growth ever since Bali hosted the Apec meeting, with more than 21 heads of state gathered on the island. It proved that Bali can provide a safe haven, logistics and also a true cultural experience for delegates," he says.
Bali demonstrated its prominence in the regional MICE industry last year when it hosted some successful local and international events, says Puspa Rianti, director of sales and marketing for Southeast Asia and Pacific of Karma Resorts, which operates Karma Kandara and Karma Jimbaran.
"Now it's time to be more competitive, especially in the international market, as we all know that Bali has already completed the standards for MICE activities, from a wide range of accommodation, ballrooms and supporting facilities with international standards to the airport, restaurants and hospitals," she says.
For Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua, MICE business has been running well since its soft opening in October 2013, when it hosted the Apec Summit, according to general manager Sylvain Pasdeloup.
"Business has been good ever since, with numerous bookings. We are expecting another great year for MICE in 2016 from both international and domestic clients, including some of the world's largest groups and companies," he says.
Despite the growth momentum, Bali's MICE sector still faces several challenges both internally and externally.
Security and regional stability are the key factors in the tourism, travel and hospitality business, Pasdeloup says. "The world has undergone a bit of turmoil with terrorism, and it can always bring implications to Bali as a tourism hub in Indonesia," he says. "That aside, we don't see any real big reason to be worried about competition, as each and every hotel has its own set of features to suit a wide range of preferences and tastes."
The lack of handling capacity at Bali International Airport is also cited as a key challenge by Wongso. He says the airport only has one landing strip with limited length, which prevents larger aircraft such as the A380 or Boeing 747 from carrying more passengers.
"However, recent renovation of the airport, such as splitting domestic and international travellers, has improved the traveller experience, and the Bali government has been planning for a larger second airport that will hopefully add more direct airline routes," he says.
Rianti says the challenge is always about trends. "Whether you want it or not, you have to keep updated about what is happening in the MICE industry," she says.
"The demand for MICE activity is increasing every year, the meeting space is changing and it is getting more tech savvy than ever before. We have to improve our infrastructure and invest in people to improve the sector."