Thu, 18 Sep 2003

Patra Bali strives to repeat past glory

Pandaya, The Jakarta Post, Kuta, Bali

The black and white pictures on the wall of the eclectic Cellar Underground emulate the sense of classicality.

U.S. defense secretary Caspar Weinberger chats with his Indonesian counterpart Gen. M. Yusuf while their wives sit idle side by side, looking like they have run out of topics.

Other pictures show numerous world leaders on various occasions while staying at the hotel: the youthful Prince Charles in the early 1970s, Burmese president Ne Win, Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam, Yugoslavia president Peter Stambolic, Queen Beatrix from the Netherlands -- to mention just a few.

The pub at the Patra Bali Resort and Villas lies a few meters under the surface of the nearby large swimming pool and the famed Kuta beach and under the shade of an odd coconut tree which has branches.

The pictures, many of those look like family albums, are a record of the hotel's past glory that its present managers sweetly remember and want to repeat.

Then, the palm-fringed hotel was a favorite place for world leaders and businesspeople to convene or just to stay while they were on holiday in Bali which, of course was not as developed as it is today.

"We want to repeat the success of the Pertamina Cottage," said a determined Djinaldi Gosana, The Patra Bali Resort and Villas general manager.

The 10.5-hectare resort in Southern Kuta Beach started as a modest guesthouse back in 1972 destined to accommodate employees and guests of the state oil company Pertamina, the owner of the facility.

In its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, Pertamina built such accommodations, which became the Patra hotel chain, near the site of their major operations.

The Bali Patra hotel, the most successful of the Patra chain, has been renovated and renamed several times before it was relaunched as The Patra Bali Resort and Villas on Sept. 10, 2003.

It made its international debut as a world class conference venue when it hosted the 1976 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) conferences.

PT Patra Jasa and the hotel's management know only too well that their yearning to bring back the old glory is no easy job now when new world-class hotels and resorts have sprung up over the past decades on the holiday island, offering a similar wide range of facilities.

The plummeting visitation to Bali following the 2002 Kuta bombing and the global SARS scare do not seem to erode their confidence of a bright prospect ahead.

"We are optimistic that this venture will break even in Between five and seven years," said Patra Jasa president director Tony Purbowo. "We expect the occupancy rate will jump to 60 percent by the end of 2004."

The target would surely force the management to work harder because, as Purbowo acknowledged, the occupancy rate of hotels in Bali have dropped to 15 percent since the bomb and SARS.

PT Patra Jasa, which is also planning to rework its hotels in Semarang, Bandung and Anyer Beach in Banten, has been working to reshape its management to make the best of the hotels competitive edge.

"We are striving to shed our image as a state-run company," Purbowo said, referring to the stereotyping of such companies, which are often associated with inefficiency, poor management and corruption.

The Patra Bali, which is doing some finishing touches, has a whole lot of brand new facilities and promises services that other hotels elsewhere in Bali may not have.

The vast complex located just five minutes drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport boasts 228 rooms with a touch of regal palatial club offering the semi boutique and resort concepts.

The Resort has 169 rooms and the "Resort within the Resort" has 59 semi-boutique villas.

The resort rates range between US$150 for the deluxe room to US$800 for the presidential suite -- all excluding the 21 percent service charge.

While the villa rates start from US$400 Club Suite to the US$1,500 royal villa with three bedrooms - plus the service tax. The guests may choose to stay with 24-hour butler service at the villas.

Discounts are offered for domestic guests, club members and those on group tours.

Guests are pampered with a wide range of services and facilities, from spa, kids club, convention halls, three swimming pools, sunset mezzanine, library, amphitheater, games room foreign food restaurants, to mention some.

Although it is located just outside the airport, the noise from the roaring aircraft is not a factor thanks to the great distance from the runway and the rooms' well-designed soundproof systems.

Rooms are spacious and the cozy interior decorated in the modern Balinese style. The Balinese symbols like statues, entrance gates, community meeting hall and deity statues, dominate the whole landscape -- assuring the guest "this in Bali".

A lot of effort has been made and a lot of money has been spent to repeat Pertamina Cottage's past glory now when time has changed a lot.

"The market is wide open," Purbowo said.