Change Coming To Gili Islands But Character Intact

Gili IslandsDespite a slew of new developments planned for the Gili Islands off the north west coast of Lombok, industry analyst Bill Barnett of C9 Hotelworks is confident these long-time backpacker escapes will maintain their relaxed character.

Barnett says lack of larger land parcels and high prices are natural control mechanisms, while most of the new projects are small and upmarket, aimed at the affluent Australian and European visitors using the islands to escape from the crowded chaos of modern Bali.

Visitor numbers have also been stable at around 450,000 a year since 2013 but this may change if speculation turns to fact and Garuda starts flying direct from Australia to Lombok.

It’s worth noting that Jetstar tried but failed to make the Australia-Lombok route work – not enough passenger interest – but Barnett believes this is set to change.

One catalyst is the govt-led development of the Mandalika special economic zone (KEK) on Lombok’s south coast, which is aiming for 1500 hotel rooms by the end of 2018, while the nearby airport is also being expanded.

Edwin Darmasetiawan, development director at the Indonesia Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), told Travel Weekly Asia that Pullman, Club Med, Royal Tulip, Marriott and InterContinental are all interested.

“We’d expect the game-changer to be direct flights, just like Krabi in Thailand or Koh Samui,”says Barnett.

From a hotelier’s perspective, Barnett says the three islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air – have been strong performers in recent times.

Beach at Gili Meno

“The trajectory in room demand has been manifested by a sustained five-year compound annual growth rate of 34%.

“What is equally impressive to the hospitality trade has been the strong room rate and occupancy growth in upscale accommodation where year-to-date average rates have eclipsed USD190 with occupancy standing at 76%.”

He estimates 73% of tourists come from Australia and Europe, staying an average of three days with of visitors using Bali as the gateway.

“One clear trend in C9’s market research has been that legacy beach oriented visitors who were attracted to the Sanur area, are now shifting over to the Gilis and onto Lombok in locations such as Sengiggi and the Southern coast.

“Though the Gili Islands much like Thailand’s Koh Samui started out as a backpacker’s destination, it is rapidly evolving higher into the tourism cycle.

“Much of the growth at the upper end is located in Gili Meno. Here a new generation of posh social offerings are newly-opened or under development.”

According to C9 Hotelworks research there are nine new hotel projects under way with a total of 278 keys.

“One notable project that is capturing overseas interest is Australian entrepreneur Greg Meyer’s upcoming BASK Gili Meno which has been designed by noted architect Gary Fell.

“Based on smaller-sized properties, the boutique nature of the marketplace is expected to remain intact, though a push upward in premium products is evident.”

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4 thoughts on “Change Coming To Gili Islands But Character Intact”

  1. While what has been stated about the Gili’s is correct, this article fails to address the reality on the ground in the South of Lombok (Mandalika project). Yes all those big brands have at one time or another, expressed an interest in building new hotels/resorts in this precinct, which they were hopeful of turning into the ‘Nusa Dua’ of Lombok. Unfortunately, the locals haven’t been too willing to embrace such opportunity in this poverty stricken area.
    However, the true reason these developments have not commenced is because the government expects the new hotels conglomerates to actually develop the south of Lombok with their own money, including putting in the necessary infrastructure to support such a tourism development. Roads, electricity and sewerage disposal/treatment. The government is unwilling to commit funds for these and this is where the stalemate between Govt and Developers, starts. There was also going to be a Formula 1 track built in that area of Lombok. That is now completely off the table, probably for the same reasons.

    1. Thanks for the comment and information Glen.

      A story in the Jakarta Post says the govt is building a mosque, an “11-kilometer road for access, a clean water treatment facility using seawater reverse osmosis technology to fulfill the water needs of Mandalika hotels in the future.”

      A govt spokesperson said: “We are also preparing 60 hectares of land for the development of a solar-powered electricity plant [PLTS],” he said, adding that PLTS Mandalika would hopefully start operating in 2017.”

      So yes there’s a lot that needs to happen before 2018.

      1. A very good road has been redone 3 times this year, and a new (again) mosque is being built in Kuta on a site that was supposed to host tourism schools for the different hotels you mention above. Small huts on the beach are being constantly broken down to let hotels build their project. But the reality is that it has been 6 years and local people still have nothing, not even their store to make a living.

        The funds are just not going to the right places. Project management in the south doesn’t exist. We still don’t have steady power (cuts everyday for several hours). So before talking about clean energy please provide some kind of support to local businesses that desperately need help. The government spends millions in adverts around the world to ask people to invest in this beautiful country. Can the policies follow as well to make is a real business friendly place?

        We still haven’t talked about the major issue in Lombok: the government land office (BNP). It takes them over a year to issue new certificate. In the past some fake certificates have emerged and now is creating a mess for investors.

        I don’t see any potential outcome as long as the government doesn’t take those problems seriously.


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