Hotel Online  Special Report


Fighting Spirits! Rank-and-file Staff at Bali InterContinental Resort Talk About Their Hopes, Fears, Dreams

By Steve Shellum, Publisher/Editor, HOTEL Asia Pacific
April 2003
Rank-and-file staff in Bali are struggling to survive as the fall-off in guests and the resulting reduction in service-charge income drastically cuts their take-home pay. Many are finding it difficult to support extended families or pay off mortgages and bank loans. We talk to employees of the Bali InterContinental Resort about their hopes, fears, dreams and aspirations

Parwata, 31
Bartender, Padi Prada Bar

I rent a room 200m from Paddy's Bar. I was coming home from a friend's village, and I heard the explosion from about 20km away. I knew two girls who died. 

Bali has lost face now, but we think positive. Our spirit is still strong. We realise that the economy is down, but our beliefs and our spirit will see us through. Despite the bombings, our art and culture are still alive.

What is our vision? Obviously, the bombings were very bad, but they could have a positive long-term impact 20 years from now. 

Perhaps the Gods were upset by what we have done in Bali, worrying only about business and making money. 

Next time, we have to have other things rather than just tourism. My brother has a small agri-business, planting chillies, and I help him when I'm not working at the hotel.

When I left school many years ago, I did not have a vision of working in a hotel. 
Every year, many people come to Bali to get a job, just to make money. If they are successful, they go back and bring their families. 

They are not Hindus, but Balinese people don't care what religion they are.  But some of them bring trouble. There are only two million people in Bali, but tourism has resulted in many people coming here for the wrong reasons.

At school, I studied physics and wanted to be an engineer or an architect. Maybe if I moved to Jakarta that would have been possible, but I belong to Bali.

I started work in 1993 in a 3-star hotel in Kuta as a senior barman, then I went to tourism school and studied F&B operations.

Sometimes, I think of building a different career, or entering some other business. 
Currently, it's OK, but I don't know if I will be doing this all my life. I belong to the land, but the land is fast disappearing because of tourism. 

Our traditional ways of making a living - from the sea or the land - are not appealling to many of today's generation, but I would like to return. That is why I am helping my brother with his small agri-business. Perhaps one day I will join him full time.

I would like to return to my village to live, and if the village elders believe I can be a leader, that is fine. If not, that is also fine.

Our arts and culture are at the heart of everything we do. We have to spend a lot of money on the ceremonies, and that's becoming more difficult now that the service charges have been reduced so much. But we still do it, and we do it willingly.

Balinese people are always trusting. We have a saying, tattwan asi, which means, "If you hurt me, you hurt yourself". It also means, "You are me, I am you." 

We also say hukum karma, "Maybe next week, or maybe in the next life".

The tragedy has made people intro-spective. In my personal opinion, we have to make the world safe by finding out why the terrorists are angry.

At home I practise the guitar a lot. I wrote a song about the tragedy, Bankgitlah Baliku. In English, I think that would be Rise Up Bali. 

I have never played it for anyone, but I sing it to myself at home. It's in the key of A.
I don't play piano very well, but I learn a few chords from the piano player here, when the band is practising in the afternoons. 

Sometimes, if there is no one in the bar, I will play a little to myself. I'm getting better every day.

Please don't cry Bali,
Rise from your suffering,
Please don't cry Bali, 
The world still loves you

My blood will not stop flowing for you,
Bali is my soul,
My heart will not stop beating for you,
Bali, please rise up

Words and music by Parwata

Artini, 30
Club Lounge Hostess

I started with this hotel in 1993; it was my first job on leaving school. I worked in reception for four years, then guest relations for two and a half years. I've been working in the club lounge for three and a half years now.

I am married, but we have no children yet - hopefully, soon. My husband works for a travel agency and, for the moment, he still has his job.

We live in Denpasar with my parents. We cannot afford our own home just now - it's very tough to buy your own house, especially now. 

Since our service-charge income has fallen so much, we can only afford essentials. It was twice my basic salary, but it has dropped by about 80%. But I did get my bonus, thankfully.

The management are looking after us. They held a meeting with all employees regarding the bombing, and told us: "Don't worry".

Some of my friends who work for small hotels in Kuta have lost their jobs, and I know that staff in other hotels in Nusa Dua have gone unpaid. We are very lucky to be working here.

I did not lose any close friends or family in the tragedy. I didn't go to the site, but I was there for the ceremony afterwards. It is too sad.

I felt safe before the bombing, but now I worry, especially at night time and when I am at the ground level in the hotel - where would I run?

We have had fire training, but not on security. That would be a good idea.

Wiji, 37
Sous Chef

I come from a family of fishermen, which has always lived in Jimbaran village. Our village is closely linked to the hotel, and many villagers work here - maybe 200 or more.

There is a very close relationship between the village and the resort, we depend on each other in many, many ways. In Bali, about 90% of people work for hotels or in supplying them - even the traditional carpenters. 

There are not many tourists right now, and that is hurting everybody badly. I used to get Rph1.5 million (US$168) to two million a month in service charges, but now it has fallen to between 300,000 and 400,000.

People are concerned about basic life. I have three children - all girls, aged 13, seven and one. In our tradition, I must have a boy, so I must keep trying. It is very hard to pay for food, clothes and other necessities, especially with three young girls to look after.

I would like to buy a house and a new motorbike. I used to keep 20% of my earnings in the bank, but now that is not possible.

Balinese are friendly, we talk nicely and treat people with respect. But now, in my village, we have become very security conscious and suspicious of strangers. Everyone is very alert. 

I know the problems, and that is why I want to keep Bali safe for the tourists and my family. This is my island. Everything belongs to the sea.

Metri, 31
Club Lounge Hostess

I started in reception in July 1993 when the hotel opened. Before I graduated, I worked for a small hotel in Kuta, then in the restaurant of a fun pub.

We work three different shifts in the club lounge, and I enjoy my job very much. I meet many people from many countries. I learn about their cultures, and I teach Balinese culture to them. 

I married in 1995, and have one boy, who is seven, and one girl, who is two. My husband works for a small hotel in Kuta, in sales and marketing.

It is very hard to cope, and a lot will depend on the hotel occupancy over the next few months. I am very worried about the future, but my husband is very good and has ideas to do his own business at home. My job provides our main income, and we have enough for our daily needs. 

The tragedy was a big shock, it is so sad. I knew some of the victims - one driver from my village is missing till today, and my husband lost some friends. I never watch TV and only listen to the radio - I have not seen any pictures.

When it happened, a lot of conferences and meetings were all suddenly cancelled, which had a serious effect on our service-charge money. 

But the company was kind to give us our bonuses. And the management has treated the staff very well. They sat us all together and told us not to worry, there would be no firings and they would do their best to keep staff and increase training. That will improve our knowledge and service skills. 

People from Six Continents in other countries sent their sympathy to us by email, which made it easier. We knew we were not alone. We still receive many letters of support, which makes us feel a bit more confident. 

My wish: I do hope that international people will not forget Bali. I hope they will support us to recover Bali, but I understand that it will not be soon. I feel confident about the future because this is not about Bali. 

We have to be more careful about other people. Now, it is not so easy to trust people.

Yasa, 29
Personal Valet

I'VE been at the hotel since 1995. I was a waiter for three years and a bartender for two years. I've been a personal valet for two years. It's not too hard ...

I've been married for three years and my wife, Wadana, has been working here since the hotel opened. We live in Jimbaran village. We don't have any children yet - maybe next year. 

My basic salary is around 700,000. I used to get about 1.5 million in service charges, but it's now down to about 300,000 because occupancy is down so much. It's a bit difficult to survive, but I feel very lucky to have a job. 

Some of my friends have lost their jobs - they used to stay in Kuta or Jimbaran but have now returned to their villages. But there are no jobs in the villages.

I feel worried. If it is still like this in six months or a year from now, maybe the hotel will not be able to pay all the employees, or maybe we will have to take long, unpaid leave. 

But the hotel makes good decisions, so I am optimistic.

If you walk around Kuta you can see many small shops trying to sell watches or perfume - most of them are not Balinese people. They are not like us Balinese - they disturb the tourists and the guests.

In my heart, maybe I want to kill the terrorists who did this. Why did they try to destroy Bali?

I think the hotel is secure. We have brought in bomb detectors, and we are all more security conscious. I don't worry.

My wish is that within the next three or four months, or the next year, Bali will be back to normal. Every day I go to the temple and pray that the hotel will be safe and people will come back to Bali.

Mico, 32
Club Lounge Supervisor

Business is very important but, in our nature, it is not so important. We need to keep our traditions, and I paint in the traditional style.

Tourism is the major industry in Bali. Everything is for tourism, and I will always work in the industry. My uncle worked in the hotel industry before, and he was my role model. I started in 1993 after studying front-office management at the BPLP (Bali Hotel School). 

I started as a bell boy and, in less than a year, I was promoted to bell captain, then head of the bell desk. Now I am in charge of 10 people in the club lounge, and it is a very interesting position. We are a very good team.

Management is treating us really good, but people are very worried. They have to spend money on housing, family and schooling, and give offerings to the temples.
It is not so bad for me - I am single and stay in my village. It's about an hour away by motorbike. 

I was at home when the bombs went off and my friend called me. I went down, but the area was blocked, and I was thinking I had to do something. I saw the people bleeding in the hospital. I saw the bodies.

I never imagined this could happen in Bali. When I was a child, I learned that "I am as you, you are as I". It means, "Respect each other" - if you do bad to me, you are doing bad to yourself. 

It is karma: what you do, you are responsible for till the end of your life and into the next life.

We are now much more alert. We always have a second look, especially in the hotel. "Who is this guy? What's he doing here?"

My wish is that any kind of terror must not happen. I see many people worrying. But is anywhere totally safe?

© Copyright HOTEL Asia Pacific


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Hotel Asia Pacific
Steve Shellum
158 Wong Uk Tsuen
Yuen Long
New Territories
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2882-7352
Fax: +852 2882-2461
[email protected]

Also See Trevor Bilney, Executive Chef at the Bali InterContinental Resort, Fights Hard Since Last October 12; Keeps Morale Up  and Costs Down / HOTEL Asia Pacific / March 2003
Hotels Stepping Up Security; Learning to Live with the Threat of Terrorism as Part of Conducting Everyday Business / HOTEL Asia Pacific Survey / March 2003
50% of Hoteliers Have Not Increased Investment in Security More than a Year After the September 11 Attacks / HOTEL Asia Pacific Survey / December 2002
Security: Something No Hotel Can Ignore / Geoff Griswold / Summer 2002
Biometrics Lend a Hand to Hotel Security / Feb 2002
Hotels Near Airports Provide Better Safety and Security Features According to The Center for Hospitality Research - Cornell Hotel School / Dec 2002

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