As I step into the lobby of the Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel in Bali (pictured above), the sound of traffic becomes muted and I find myself in a tranquil oasis, offering sudden respite from the island’s humidity. Smiling staff bustle about the airy space, which abuts a green-lawned courtyard.
A turtle dove is cooing somewhere and a female crooner is singing moodily over the PA system as Stuart Bolwell steps up to greet me, hand extended in welcome. The 47-year-old expatriate New Zealander has been with this hotel for 11 years, and GM for the past three years, and the focus and continuity he’s brought to the role helps explain why ratings for this property continue to head north.
Two-and-a-half years ago, the user-generated website TripAdvisor ranked the Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel thirty-fifth in Bali’s busy coastal strip of Sanur on the southeast of the island. Now it’s sixteenth, says Stuart, and the good results are reflected in guests’ comments. Its sister property nearby, the Sanur Paradise Plaza Suites, is now ranked the second-best family accommodation in the country.
The largest four-star hotel in Bali focusing on meetings and events, the Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel is half an hour’s drive from Denpasar airport and the busy tourist precinct of Kuta, and a few minutes away from good shopping and its own beach enclave.
One of nine properties strategically located throughout Indonesia and managed by Prime Plaza Hotels and Resorts, the hotel is set next to a verdant nine-hole golf course. It is quintessentially Balinese: everywhere, from the gardens surrounding the 110-metre-long pool to the private courtyards adjoining many of the 329 rooms, foliage sprouts in lush profusion.
Stuart Bolwell, pictured below, is a high-energy manager, as I can attest as I try to keep up with him on a brisk walking tour of the hotel and its 18 meetings and functions spaces, which include a ballroom, the ‘Griya Agung’. When all venues are full, the resort can accommodate 2,000 MICE guests, he says.
People expect more
“People’s expectations are much higher now,” says Stuart. “Those heading off for events or leisure are educated in travelling, and in what they want and expect. That’s why you’ve got to make sure you invest more in resources and energy to maintain standards and service these days. I keep reminding my teams of this.”
The strategy is working, as the hotel has a growing reputation for providing value for money and robust occupancies, he says. This dovetails with Stuart’s philosophy ‘to under-promise and over-deliver’.
“We don’t gouge in our pricing structure, so you’re never charged more than what you’d expect,” he says.
From USD85 per night
The rate for guest rooms, most of which have just been renovated, is USD85 per night for two people, including breakfast and wifi. Conference day rates are equally good value: USD35 per delegate, including lunch and two coffee breaks as well as the latest in AV and other necessary gear. A point-of-contact person is assigned to each event to take care of every request.
Roughly half of the resort’s events business is domestic, and the rest is mostly from Australia and Europe, says Stuart. “Our distinct advantage over competitors is that we’ve been here a long time and do what we do very well. Our staff are incredibly dedicated and we have long-established relationships with local companies and third-party contractors who supply us with their services.”
Recent events hosted here include those of international teachers’ and doctors’ groups and an Indian telco. For a recent Lions club conference, the hotel welcomed delegates from 33 countries. It lasted a week and many guests either arrived beforehand or extended their stay apres-meetings to explore the island, going on day tours to the central upland town of Ubud and to the ancient Tanah Lot temple, located on the coast, which has been part of Balinese mythology for centuries.
The ballroom, which can cater for 1,100 theatre style or 750 in banquet arrangements, is a spacious pillarless 950 square metres in area, together with its pre-function area. It has dedicated vehicle access and a 122 square-metre permanent stage.
The Siteseer was not a guest of the Sanur Paradise Plaza Hotel.