Having visited twice last year, I can personally attest that there is an endless stream of new hotels just opened or coming online in Bali, ranging from well-known brands such as Regent, Luxury Collection, and Ritz-Carlton to a number of Indonesian flags. That said, two of the grand dames in the luxury space are doing just fine with a recipe of constant innovation and investment.
Four Seasons’ duo at Jimbaran Bay and Sayan, both having been around for nearly two decades, were among the island’s first true luxury properties.
Perhaps it helps having a deep-pocketed owner. Singapore-based Ong Beng Seng is described as a “business magnate and investor.” With his wife, Forbes estimates their fortune at $1.6 billion. And, having to live up to the exacting Four Seasons standards doesn’t hurt.
Michael D. Branham, the Jimbaran Bay General Manager, employs nearly 100 gardeners. Given the tropical environment, he knows it is a necessary to keep the grounds immaculately manicured.
Last year, he opened a new beach club, Sundara (pictured above). With a 60-meter pool set lengthwise along the beach, there is all day dining (fresh seafood, Indonesian style with organic vegetables from the north of Bali), and a rooftop bar for spectacular sunsets. There is also event space for up to 100 and two private dining rooms, seating up to 20 each, popular with the occupants of the resort’s four-bedroom residences.
For all the investment in hard product, oftentimes it’s the little things guests remember. Nobody knows this better than Javier de las Muelas, the Barcelona based cocktail maestro who spent six months in Bali (I’m not sure that’s a hardship) developing a signature drinks menu using local kumquat, passion fruit, and the like.
In the culturally rich Ubud District, Uday Rao, who just finished a top to bottom renovation about 18 months ago, has now brought in a French chef to launch a bistro concept for the riverside restaurant (below). Coming in January is a new yoga pavilion located by the river. The new amenity will enable the resort to offer a year round program and will feature an on-site lifestyle coach. Rao is already putting together a schedule of visiting yoga masters and teachers.
Back down at Jimbaran Bay Branham says plans have started on an Imperial Villa that will come online in the next couple years.
One other point of interest is Bali’s relatively low occupancy rates, outside of holidays, means that for elite travelers looking for a quick getaway there is often availability. Branham says it’s not unusual to get calls within a day from private jet setters looking to fly in.