Get busy in paradise

Putting destinations like Labuan Bajo in the limelight will uplift a city’s capabilities and spread business footfall around Indonesia

Marked as one of Indonesia’s five Super Priority Destinations, Labuan Bajo, has already established itself as a leisure hotspot, but it is working towards positioning itself as an ideal destination for business events as well.

Located in East Nusa Tenggara, the harbour city stepped confidently into the limelight when it recently played host to the ASEAN Summit, a gathering of heads of state from member countries earlier in May.

Labuan Bajo successfully hosted the ASEAN Summit in May

Wiwin Kurniawan, director of marketing and operations at Pacto Convex, expressed that while there were some limitations when considering Labuan Bajo as an events destination, the successful hosting of the Summit demonstrated the city’s ability as a prime business events hub.

One such limitation was the lack of accommodations and meeting spaces suited for large-scale or high-profile events.

According to data from the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, Labuan Bajo currently has 38 hotels offering over 1,500 rooms. Among these properties, only five are classified as upscale accommodations, such as the Ayana Komodo Waecicu Beach Hotel, Meruorah Komodo Labuan Bajo, and Plataran Komodo Resort & Spa.

For the 145-key Meruorah Komodo Labuan Bajo and 205-key Ayana Komodo Waecicu Beach Hotel, hosting national and international business events is not new.

Rizal Kasim, president director of Hotel Indonesia Group, the holding company of Meruorah Komodo Labuan Bajo, stated: “In fact, Meruorah was purposefully designed to target business events. Our meeting facilities are currently the largest on the island. Since its launch in 2019, we have successfully hosted several national and international events, including last year’s G20 meetings.”

The hotel ballroom can accommodate up to 375 people theatre-style and be further divided into three meeting rooms.

Golo Mori Convention Centre is ready to host business events (Photo by HIG)

Christian Hoechtl, general manager of Ayana Hospitality Group as well as Ayana Midplaza Jakarta, said: “MICE bookings accounted for 35 per cent of Ayana’s revenue in 2019. For 2023, MICE business has contributed 25 per cent thus far, and we are optimistic that our participation in this year’s ASEAN Summit will significantly boost revenue.”

Ayana Komodo Waecicu Beach Hotel’s function spaces include a ballroom with up to 220 people for reception and sits 150 theatre-style, as well as five breakout rooms amnd several outdoor venues.

Hochtl added that the Summit will enhance the promotion of local tourist destinations and domestic industries, showcasing Indonesia’s competitive advantage.

In a boost to Labuan Bajo’s event capability beyond five-star hotels’ ballrooms and venues, the Golo Mori Convention Centre (GMCC) was recently completed.

A standalone facility, GMCC is located a 30-minute drive away from the city centre on a 26-km long newly built road. The venue features an amphitheatre with a capacity of up to 1,500 people, a convention centre that can accommodate up to 500 people, and several boardrooms.

Ari Respati, president director of the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation, also revealed plans for an integrated resort complex spanning 200 hectares around GMCC. A beach club and small dock have already been built, while several hotels and attractions are in the pipeline.

Rizal also pointed out that Labuan Bajo has several upscale hotels currently under development, and are set to come online this year and next.

As such, Pacto’s Wiwin is immensely confident in Labuan Bajo’s business events potential, because aside from having suitable business events spaces, the area’s natural beauty is something that would appeal to many.

She stated: “Labuan Bajo has stunning and alluring natural surroundings, which will captivate visitors from the moment they step off the plane. Although the destination may not be suitable for large conventions due to current facility limitations, it will appeal to small and medium-sized corporate meetings and incentives.”

Possible additions to corporate itineraries include island hopping, sunset cruising, one-day trips to Komodo Island, diving, and enjoying the scenic views from Puncak Waringin Peak.

Terence Lee, general manager of Meruorah Komodo Labuan Bajo, agreed: “Labuan Bajo is good for combining meetings and incentives. You arrive in Labuan Bajo for meetings (on the first day), then go island hopping on the second and third days.”

Wiwin further pointed out that as demand for business events increases, investors will be keen to explore the further development of facilities and equipment, thereby reducing logistical costs.

To sustain the momentum of high demand for both leisure and business events, Lee expects an increase in seat capacity to the Labuan Bajo, which could lead to the expansion of Komodo Airport.

Currently, the airport is equipped with a 2,650m-long runway capable of accommodating A320 and B738 aircraft.

Hochtl is also optimistic, sharing that the government’s plans to establish Labuan Bajo as an international hub in the near future will further solidify the region’s position as a preferred business events destination.

With enhanced infrastructure and convenient access to Komodo National Park, Labuan Bajo would attract event planners seeking new and different experiences for their meetings and incentive travel, he said.

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