Investing Beyond Bali?

Borobudur Temple
Borobudur Temple
Image by Mario La Pergola on Unsplash.

This might come as a bit of a shock to some, but there is more to Indonesia than the island of Bali.

Don’t get me wrong, Bali is a beautiful and magical place with amazing people, it really is. I love living here. The guidebooks are right when they say it’s a wonderful paradise in the 17,000-plus islands of the Indonesian archipelago that stretch across the equator.

But that’s the point; it’s just one of many.

There are more islands out there, more places to discover, more opportunities, more visitors to attract, and more wealth to share.

In a recent move, and as part of an aggressive initiative to showcase some of the country’s vast wealth of resources and make a serious attempt at moving in a positive direction, the government of President Joko Widodo plans to focus on ten tourist destinations away from the Island of the Gods in 2016.

It’s a smart move considering that Bali’s infrastructure is struggling to cope with the ever increasing number of tourist arrivals and some would argue so is its culture. But it’s also a smart move if Indonesia wants to really move into the big leagues of global tourism and be a major player in the world’s fastest growing industry, because for that to happen Indonesia has to move beyond Bali. There’s no other way.

It’s time to stop thinking of everywhere else in the country as a ‘Bali-In-Waiting’ or as an afterthought to Bali’s popularity. It’s time to start focusing on promoting and developing different areas in their own right; areas like Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Tanjung Kelayang in Belitung, Tanjung Lesung in Banten, the Thousand Islands in Jakarta, Borobudur Temple in Central Java, Mount Bromo in East Java, Mandalika in South Lombok, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi, and Morotai in North Maluku are all so unique that their potential for tourism is mind-blowing.

But it can’t happen just by wishing it to be so. It needs a change of mindset.

It’s going to require a concerted and collaborative effort from various government ministries including Public Works and Public Housing (to build basic infrastructure), the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry (to provide electricity and communication networks) and the Transportation Ministry (to handle the development of seaports and airports.)

The biggest question mark, however, has to be over the bureaucracy’s ability to cut through mountains of red tape and coordinate in an effective, efficient and transparent way. There’s no denying it’s a big ask, but it’s one that Jokowi’s government feels it’s capable of answering and delivering on. They’ve laid down the plan and they’re ready for the challenge.

The plan is supposed to start this year with each area having its own and independent development authority, similar to the model Batam has been working with since 1971, and armed with the responsibility of land management, licenses, tax incentives, and other strategies geared to smoothing out the business process and attracting investments.

Here’s the rub; if these areas are to flourish and achieve their goals they’re going to need investors and these investors must feel comfortable and confident that they will achieve significant returns. Sorry, but there’s just no point if they don’t. No investor worth their salt is going to throw good money away into bottomless pits of pocket lining and into empty boxes full of smoke and mirrors. This might have been the way business was done in the past, but it’s not how it works today. Times have changed.

But it can be done.

It can be done with proper planning, structures, master plans, feasibility studies, environmental impact reports, and a genuine interest in community based economic initiatives. Everyone’s got to be a winner here not just the fat cats getting fatter.

Global hospitality intelligent services such as HVS and their local strategic partners are on standby and they are more than ready, able, and willing to do their part in helping these roll-outs be the best they can be. It is possible and it’s going to be a real team effort.

Asking for the right help should be at the top of the list for each of the ten designated areas. These new authorities need to understand, and be supportive of, a range of initiatives, which go beyond the Bali style model and the traditional hotel-resort-adventure-shopping-experience the island has become.

It is the success of the peripheral businesses and employment opportunities in support services such as training, education, construction, and transportation as well as cultural rejuvenation, which will either make or break an area. These are the foundations necessary for sustained growth.

There are many factors to consider but the bottom line has to be win-win. Everyone has to be able to enjoy the benefits, not just the privileged few. Unfortunately, this is something Bali hasn’t dealt with very well and it will come back to bite.

Learning from the mistakes the country’s most popular tourist destination has made will serve these ten regions very well in the years to come. Let’s hope someone is listening!

These are the 10 designated tourism hot spots and they’re all worth visiting:

  1. Lake Toba in North Sumatra
  2. Tanjung Kelayang in Belitung
  3. Tanjung Lesung in Banten
  4. Thousand Islands in Jakarta
  5. Borobudur Temple in Central Java
  6. Mount Bromo in East Java
  7. Mandalika in South Lombok
  8. Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara
  9. Wakatobi in Southeast Sulawesi
  10. Morotai in North Maluku

If you’d like to learn more about investing in Indonesia get in touch with us today through

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Andrzej Barski

Director of Seven Stones Indonesia

Andrzej is Co-owner/ Founder and Director of Seven Stones Indonesia. He was born in the UK to Polish parents and has been living in Indonesia for more than 33-years. He is a skilled writer, trainer and marketer with a deep understanding of Indonesia and its many cultures after spending many years travelling across the archipelago from North Sumatra to Irian Jaya.

His experience covers Marketing, Branding, Advertising, Publishing, Real Estate and Training for 5-Star Hotels and Resorts in Bali and Jakarta, which has given him a passion for the customer experience. He’s a published author and a regular contributor to local and regional publications. His interests include conservation, eco-conscious initiatives, spirituality and motorcycles. Andrzej speaks English and Indonesian.

Terje H. Nilsen

Director of Seven Stones Indonesia

Terje is from Norway and has been living in Indonesia for over 20-years. He first came to Indonesia as a child and after earning his degree in Business Administration from the University of Agder in Norway, he moved to Indonesia in 1993, where he has worked in leading positions in education and the fitness/ wellness industries all over Indonesia including Jakarta, Banjarmasin, Medan and Bali.

He was Co-owner and CEO of the Paradise Property Group for 10-years and led the company to great success. He is now Co-owner/ Founder and Director of Seven Stones Indonesia offering market entry services for foreign investors, legal advice, sourcing of investments and in particular real estate investments. He has a soft spot for eco-friendly and socially sustainable projects and investments, while his personal business strengths are in property law, tourism trends, macroeconomics, Indonesian government and regulations. His personal interests are in sport, adventure, history and spiritual experiences.

Terje’s leadership, drive and knowledge are recognised across many industries and his unrivalled network of high level contacts in government and business spans the globe. He believes you do good and do well but always in that order. Terje speaks English, Indonesian and Norwegian.

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Ridwan Jasin Zachrie

CFO of Seven Stones Indonesia, Jakarta

Ridwan is one of Indonesia’s top executives with a long and illustrious career in the financial world. He holds several professional certifications including being a Certified Business Valuer (CBV) issued by the Australian Academy of Finance and Management; Broker-Dealer Representative (WPPE); and The Directorship Certification for Directors and Commissioners, issued by the Indonesian Institute of Commissioners and Directors.

His experience includes being the Managing Director at one of the top investment banking groups in the region, the Recapital Group, the CFO at State-owned enterprises in fishery industry and the CEO at Tanri Abeng & Son Holding. He’s also been an Independent Commissioner in several Financial Service companies and on the Audit and Risk Committee at Bank BTPN Tbk, Berau Coal Energy Tbk, Aetra Air Jakarta as well as working for Citibank, Bank Mandiri and HSBC. His last position was as CFO at PT Citra Putra Mandiri – OSO Group.

Ridwan has won a number of prestigious awards including the Best CFO Awards 2019 (Institute of Certified Management Accountant Australia-Indonesia); Asia Pacific Young Business Leader awarded by Asia 21 Network New York USA (Tokyo 2008); UK Alumni Business Awards 2008 awarded by the British Council; and The Most Inspiring Human Resources Practitioners’ version of Human Capital Magazine 2010.

He’s a member of the Board of Trustees of the Alumni Association of the Faculty of Law, Trisakti University, Co-Founder of the Paramadina Public Policy Institute and actively writes books, publications and articles in the mass media. He co-authored “Korupsi Mengorupsi Indonesia” in 2009, which helps those with an interest in understanding governance in Indonesia and the critical issue of corruption. Ridwan speaks Indonesian and English.

Per Fredrik Ecker

Managing Director of Seven Stones Indonesia, Jakarta

Per is the Managing Director of the Seven Stones Indonesia (SSI) Jakarta office and has more than 25-years’ experience in Indonesia, China, and Western Europe. He previously worked in senior management positions with Q-Free ASA, Siemens AG, and other companies in the telecom sector. Over the last six years, he has been the Chairman of the Indonesia-Norway Business Council (INBC) and recently become elected to be on the board of EuroCham Indonesia.

His most recent experience is within Intelligent Transport Solutions (ITS), Telecom, and other sectors within the Indonesian market. He is today through his position in SSI and by representing Norway Connect, promoting Nordic and European companies that would like to explore business opportunities in the Indonesian market. He’s also playing an active role to help create the Nordic House concept in Jakarta that will provide an excellent platform for Nordic companies entering Indonesia, where they’ll find a community that can offer support with trusted information and affordable services to enter this market.