Visiting Indonesia--especially the island of Bali--is a spiritual experience. Spirituality, and its accompanying ceremony and tradition, is central to the life of the Balinese (95 percent of whom are Hindu) and creates the sense of community and respect that are immediately noticeable by visitors.
The central Balinese town of Ubud is known as an artist's retreat. Two volcanoes--Mt. Batur and Mt. Bromo--are among the island's impressive natural attractions that can provide a gorgeous view or a pre-dawn climb to see the sunrise, depending on your group's condition.
Hyatt International offers two Bali hotel options--each elegant, each with its own style. The low buildings of the 26-year-old Bali Hyatt, totally restored three years ago, blend into the village of Sanur Beach and provide a peaceful retreat. The hotel's 390 rooms are set among 36 acres of gardens. The Rinjani Ballroom seats 220 for a banquet; and there are a number of outdoor function options. The culture and history of Indonesia provide numerous party themes: among them, the Kampung (village) party, Temple Garden party, and the traditional rijstaffel dinner with Rajalaya (royal) service. A spa is set to open at the Bali Hyatt this month.
In the upscale resort area of Nusa Dua, the Grand Hyatt Bali is a spectacular site for meetings--the ideal size is between 400 and 500 attendees. Among the special touches those attendees will experience: some 250 musicians and dancers, wearing traditional, colorful sarongs and sashes, leading them into the ballroom for their opening session or final-night banquet. "Here, you don't just come to a conference, you come to a culture," says Roger Lienhard, the Grand Hyatt Bali's assistant manager, food and beverage.
The property has 750 rooms in four villages, plus 39 suites and two villas; the Grand Ballroom seats 540 for a banquet and there are eight additional meeting rooms, two boardrooms, and an 80-seat auditorium. Outdoor venue options are numerous, including an open-air amphitheater that accommodates 900 guests.
Hyatt International expands its Indonesian presence with the new Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta, which opened last fall on the island of Java. Yogyakarta (or "Jogja," as it's known) is a shopper's and sightseer's mecca. The 269-room Hyatt Regency and its grounds have been designed to reflect local art and history, calling to mind the centuries-old Borobudur Temple, one of Java's most remarkable historic sites just a short drive from the property.
The ballroom seats 500 for a banquet and can be divided into six meeting rooms. A nine-hole executive golf course and driving range are available to guests in addition to a spa with a full roster of massages and treatments. Another option for golf: Merapi Golf Course, 20 minutes from the hotel in the shadow of an active volcano, the dramatic Mt. Merapi.
Garuda Indonesia flies daily to Bali and Jakarta, but there's no getting around the fact that it's a long way to go, especially from the East Coast of the U.S. The Los AngelesHawaii leg is five hours; the HawaiiBali segment is 12. Mitigating that fact is Garuda's comfortable Executive Class and delightful service. Garuda negotiates with meeting and incentive planners on an individual basis, according to Daniel Yee, Northwest area sales manager. U.S. citizens do not need visas to enter Indonesia, but passports must be valid for at least six months after arrival.
Right now, Asia offers as good (if not better) value for meetings as domestic venues, in tight supply with the booming U.S. economy. Economic downturns in the Pacific Rim mean local/regional "MICE" (meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions) business has slowed. This translates into excellent negotiating for U.S. meeting executives.
Planners from the U.S. are attracted by such newly opened facilities as the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Center (BITEC, one of the the largest centers in Southeast Asia, with a total gross enclosure area of 1.3 million square feet. The column-free main hall offers 215,000 square feet and state-of-the-art features including utility access through the floor, with individual power for each exhibitor. The 20,000-square-foot convention hall has complete audiovisual equipment and can be sub-divided into thirds. There are also 15 meeting rooms of various sizes.
BITEC also offers a large concourse for receptions, and excellent food and beverage service provided by Fine Host International. The center also has invested in separate road access to alleviate the Bangkok traffic congestion. Plans call for a monorail to serve the central business district, with direct access to BITEC.
In conjunction with destination management/ground operator Siam Express, the new five-star JW Marriott-Bangkok, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), BITEC recently hosted four U.S. meeting executives on a site inspection. In addition to their enthusiasm about BITEC, all were impressed by the selection of hotels, fine dining and entertainment options, excellent shopping, and cultural and sightseeing opportunities.
Top tier hotels in Bangkok's central business district include the JW Marriott, the Sheraton Grand Sukhumvit, The Dusit Thani, and The Landmark.Siam Express is jointly a group of five-star hotels along the Chao Phraya River--Marriott Royal Garden, Montein Riverside, The Oriental, The Peninsula, Royal Orchid Sheraton, and Shangri-La Hotel. For information, call Boyd Christenson (BITEC) at (800) 937-4418; David Barrett (Siam Express) at (011) 662-236-5970; Suwalai Pinpradab (TAT) at (212) 432-0433.