Capital transformation

Jakarta may soon lose her crown as capital city, but she is continuing to preen her event offerings.

Jakarta’s development is more than ever in the spotlight. The city is fighting to stay competitive in the business events industry, following president Joko Widodo’s decision to move the capital to East Kalimantan come 2024.

Announced in August 2019, the decision may mean that many government events – which contribute significantly to Jakarta’s business events industry – could be shifted to Kalimantan.

An aerial view of the HoteI Indonesia (HI) roundabout in the heart of metropolitan Jakarta, which is now connected to Lebak Bulus in southern Jakarta by MRT

A month after the president’s announcement, tourism and hotel consulting firm Howarth HTL released a report that attempted to estimate the impact of the move on hotel room night demand (RND) in Jakarta.

One of the scenarios laid out in the report projected a 25 per cent loss in hotel RND from government- and business-related events to Kalimantan. This would mean a loss of 528,000 room nights a year for Jakarta hotels, as well as 1.2 trillion rupiah (US$87.6 million) in annual revenue. Figures were arrived at based on the 2018 performance of the Jakarta hotel industry.

Nevertheless, Cucu Kurnia, head of the Jakarta regional tourism and culture office, remains optimistic about Jakarta’s status as a destination for events.

He asserted that promoting business events in the city remains “the right thing” to do going forward, as the city has all the facilities and amenities, in terms of venues, hotels, transportation links and attractions, as well as “top-notch professionals”.

He reckoned that Jakarta can look to attract meetings, conventions and exhibitions, and less so, groups on incentive programmes.

Getting around
One major challenge for business event organisers in Jakarta is the city’s notorious traffic. The city government has stepped in to address this by introducing more transport links in recent years.

The Jakarta MRT, introduced in 2019, has been lauded by locals and visitors. According to MRT Jakarta, the company overseeing the Jakarta MRT, 24.6 million riders, or about 95,060 riders per day, have taken the train throughout the year, since its official opening on March 24 last year.

Currently, Jakarta MRT serves 13 stations stretching from Lebak Bulus in southern Jakarta to Hotel Indonesia roundabout (Bunderan HI) at the centre of metropolitan Jakarta.

This marks merely a 15.7km stretch of the transportation’s first line, which will eventually extend from Bunderan HI to Kota Tua or old city, then to West Ancol in the north, connecting the northern and southern ends of Jakarta.

Completion of the stretch between Bunderan HI and Kota Tua is slated for end-2024, while the entire line is expected to be completed come 2027.

Meanwhile, the Jakarta Light Rapid Transit (LRT) has officially begun operations since December last year, having held public trials between June and November. The LRT will eventually connect Jakarta with the surrounding Bogor, Depok and Bekasi (known collectively as the Jabodebek) area.

Tiga Dari, one of three dining venues at Hutan Kota by Plataran, which is billed as “a long awaited central park of Jakarta”

Getting integrated
According to Panca Sarungu, chairman of public-private partnership Kuningan MICE Alliance, the scarcity of land in Jakarta and its expensive cost has motivated industry players to build venues in malls, offices or in F&B spaces, as well as set up boutique venues.

One such example in southern Jakarta is The Kasablanka Hall. Located on the third floor of Kota Kasablanka, one of Jakarta’s busiest shopping centres, the venue can seat 2,000 guests. There are also smaller meeting rooms on the same floor as well as a VIP room and a medic room elsewhere in the mall.

The Sopo Del Office Tower project in the CBD of Mega Kuningan – also in southern Jakarta – offers various event venues, a hotel and shops. There are three functions rooms and a grand ballroom, which can accommodate up to 700 guests in theatre-style seating.

New in central Jakarta is Hutan Kota by Plataran, which is billed as “a long-awaited central park of Jakarta”. Besides being home to 3.2ha of lush greenery, the unique venue, which can host a total of 2,000 guests, boasts corporate dining spaces, an open performance deck, a pet playground, and prayer rooms.

Event planners looking for boutique venues in central Jakarta can seek out LAVVA at Plaza Senayan shopping complex. The entertainment space houses a lounge with a standing room of 300 and seating room of 160, as well as a whisky bar and KTV suites.

Going international
As Jakarta continues the push to reinvent itself and improve its business events offerings, it comes as no surprise that some industry players hold a positive view of the city’s future.

Panca, who is also CEO of RajaMICE, an event organiser based in nearby West Java, is optimistic that Jakarta’s future as a business events destination is bright, thanks to facilities and accessibility.

While Jakarta “might lose some of its market”, acknowledged Panca, he reckoned that the city would “continue to attract business events, including big government meetings”.

Having said that, Panca encouraged local players to decrease their reliance on business travel and government events, and move toward attracting regional and even international corporate gatherings.

With this focus on private events, he stressed that it is all the more important for Jakarta to improve its infrastructure and set up a convention bureau that will head up marketing and promotional activities.

In fact, TTGmice understands that the city government has set the gears in motion for such a bureau. A plan to establish the regional Tourism Promotion Board, which will oversee both leisure and business events, is awaiting the approval of Jakarta governor, Anies Baswedan.

Hosea Andreas Runkat, chairman, Indonesia Exhibition Companies Association (IECA), has seen a shift in the regional tourism and culture office’s agenda towards business events. He remarked that the office is “actively opening dialogues with the industry” and are slated to attend related tradeshows after being absent for about five years.

“What we need going forward is for the city government to allot the majority of promotional budget – say 70 per cent – for business events and the rest for leisure, and not the other way around,” emphasised Andreas.

Capital city or not, Jakarta continues to undergo development in terms of transportation, and international hotel brands are still planting its flags in the city.

It seems as though Jakarta’s status as Indonesia’s forefront business events destination is here to stay.

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