Sat, 02 Dec 2000

Jakarta hotels occupancy rate on the rise

By Mehru Jaffer

JAKARTA (JP): The season of fun and games may be upon everyone else, but for the city's hotels the holiday is over. There is plenty to do as corridors crowd up once again and the business is brisk.

As the sun sets more and more lights are switched on in rooms occupied by guests, making the city's Central Business District twinkle as if studded with a thousand stars. The tall towers that dot the city's skyline and are home to numerous hotels are indeed trying to outdo each other to please guests, who are visiting again not only from abroad but also from different parts of the country.

"Our guests are mostly business travelers equally divided between those from here and abroad," says Fathia Syarif of the Jakarta Hilton International.

Situated in between the hubbub of the center of the city and its more quiet southern environs, the Hilton is a familiar and an extremely popular stopover for guests from Japan, the U.S. and many European Union countries.

Fathia is delighted that after months of an uncomfortable lull, occupancy levels have increased in recent months by up to 25 percent. Apart from an improvement in the country's economic and political situation, the holiday season is also upon us. This means the business community from around the world is using hotels to meet with each other and wrap up last minute business deals before going underground, often at the same hotel for a bit of rest and recreation.

Despite the fact that the rupiah is weak at the moment, Luis Fernandes, managing director The Dharmawangsa, which is part of the exclusive Rosewood hotels and resorts chain, feels his guests are not intimidated by current events in the country, as they definitely have long-term business interests on their minds.

The economic atmosphere may not be perfect today, but the whole world knows how rich Indonesia's natural resources are and how efficiently the country runs its manufacturing sector.

He said that meetings, conferences and seminars were organized regularly by the business community, and here foreign investors probably made plans far into the future without being put off by the present social turmoil that is so natural in times of transition.

It is the smaller hotels, however, that are harder hit and have to face up to much more competition in these uncertain economic and political times. For it is these hotels who have lost their regular customers to the bigger hotels, that today are offering some of the cheapest rates in the world. All five-star hotels here offer services at almost throw-away prices.

Some of these hotels are charging three-star prices in return for five-star luxury, something the business community continues to take advantage of despite the fact that Jakarta has been declared a dangerous destination by many a government.

It is little wonder then that the mood is upbeat at hotels like the Mulia Senayan. At the moment the hotel is busy polishing up seven of its outlets and the Grand Ballroom, readying to play host to guests for its New Year's Eve celebrations.

If the news from the Gran Mahakam is to be believed, business is now better than ever. Before the economic crisis, the occupancy rate hovered at about 30 percent. Last year it went up to 48 percent, but these days it is 52 percent.

Benny Huliselan, director of sales and marketing, says there is a definite increase in international leisure and business travelers. He answers with an emphatic "yes" when asked if both foreign businesspeople and tourists have returned, and vows to continue spoiling his guests not just in the new year, but in all the years to come.

As far as the Regent is concerned, October and November have historically been busy months.

"This is the peak time for travel to Jakarta by people from abroad, and a bullish outlook is forecast by most hoteliers for the coming year, too," says Hanny Wahyuni, the hotel's public relations director. She expects all those who postponed their travel plans to Jakarta in the past year to come to the country in the coming year.

Jasmina Janik, director of sales and marketing at Hotel Borobudur, is upbeat as well. "Indonesia has so much to offer both to the world's business community and to tourists," she says, dismissing the present situation in the country as the expected "ups and downs" for a country trying to settle down after experiencing such momentous changes.

Presiding over a hotel located in a 23 acre garden full of century-old mahogany trees and renovated over a period of 22 months, Jasmina cannot imagine guests being able to stay away from the luxury, comfort and work environment provided by the hotel, which has nearly three decades of tradition behind it.

Mirna Basalamah, public relations manager at Hotel Mercure Rekso Hayam Wuruk in downtown Kota, laughed merrily when asked about the four-star hotel's current occupancy rate.

"It has been over 60 percent since September," she says. And she says the rate is continuing to rise. In November, it was 70 percent and she is upbeat the trend will continue.