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Budget Hotels in Indonesia Tapping into Growing Demand of Cost Conscious Travelers

By Nurfika Osman, The Jakarta Post, Indonesia / Asia News NetworkMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Aug. 27, 2012--JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN) -- There was a time when a traveller knew what to expect from a budget hotel -- stains and cigarette burns on cheap linen covering a soggy mattress, a pink shower with no hot water, a questionable toilet bowl and (God forbid!) no Internet connection.

Thankfully, that morose time for budget travellers is now over with new chain hotels entering the fray in Indonesia's budget hospitality sector, hoping to tap into the growing market of middle-class travellers who demand good value for their leisure or business trips. As competition between hotels turns cutthroat, travellers can expect to pay less than US$50 and get amenities and facilities beyond those of traditional two-star hotels.

With some luck, paying about 200,000 rupiah (US$21) in any of these hotels in big cities like Jakarta, Bali, Yogyakarta, Surakarta or Makassar will get you a clean air-conditioned room with an en suite bathroom, quality linen, a flat-screen TV, housekeeping, basic breakfast and room service and a free Internet connection in your room. Most hotel chains provide Internet booking services and some offer discounts for early-bird or for low-season reservations.

Could an intrepid traveller ask for more? Apparently, yes. With basic amenities covered, chain hotels are now offering additional services ranging from in-house spas to "innovative shower pods", and claiming competitive edges over their competitors as "stylish" or "eco-friendly" accommodation.

International chain Aston International Hotels and Conventions offers in-room spa services, restaurants and coffee-shops on top of the basic amenities at all of its two-star brands, called "the favehotels". In its efforts to appeal to travellers who "appreciate style, functionality and good value", the hotel operator also provides swimming pools in tourist spots like Yogyakarta and Bali.

"That is our strategy to be ahead of our competitors. Besides, we see that the customers demand a much more comfortable stay in budget hotels nowadays," Aston corporate communications manager Febry Anindita told The Jakarta Post.

With such facilities, a room for two would cost rupiah 238,000 to 448,000 rupiah per night before tax, including breakfast.

Tune Hotels, partly owned by Malaysian-based airline AirAsia Berhad, offers the "you buy what you need" concept.

Those who plan to spend the whole day shopping or sightseeing around Jakarta or Denpasar and only need a clean place to crash and a hot shower in the morning can book a room in Pasar Baru, Central Jakarta, for 180,000 rupiah after tax. For more comfort, guests can add a package of 12-hour air conditioning, 24-hour TV and WiFi, towels and toiletries for an extra 99,000 rupiah per night.

Amaris Hotel, under the management of Santika Indonesia Hotels and Resorts, provides swimming pools in its Bandung and Bali hotels. However, Amaris does not have either restaurants or coffee shops. Food and beverages were not the focus of its business, said Santika spokesperson Vivi Herlambang. "But, we can provide you simple dishes like fried rice and coffee every morning or at lunch," she added.

On average, a room for two in Amaris, which offers "comfortable, uncomplicated amenities and straight-forward guest needs", costs guests 350,000 rupiah per night.

New player Tauzia Hotel Management offers a different concept in serving breakfast to its customers staying in POP! Hotels. The company's spokesperson Yani Sinulingga said the management had worked with local street vendors to provide guests with authentic dishes. POP! Hotel in Yogyakarta, for example, provides jamu gendong (traditional herbal medicine) from local vendors. POP! Hotels also tries to distinguish itself from the competition by using solar power to be more "eco-friendly" and with stylish touches such as shower pods.

Diana Hadi, a 28-year-old bank employee in Jakarta, said she preferred to stay in Amaris or Aston's "favehotels" when traveling to big cities across Java and Bali. "Budget hotels are now providing satisfying amenities to their customers, from good linen to free Internet service and swimming pools. Why should I stay in a prime-class hotel if I can get more than enough comfort in a lower-cost option?" she told the Post.

Besides, she said, she spent most of her time travelling and shopping around the cities she visited instead of staying in her hotel room.

Ariana Nasution, 24, who teaches kindergarten and private English language courses in East Jakarta, also chose budget-class hotels for her trips.

"Budget hotels, for a teacher like me, who doesn't earn much but loves travelling, are perfect. One time, my friend and I only spent 188,000 rupiah a night in POP! Hotel Kuta [of Bali] before Ramadan. We were lucky to get the special rate," Nasution said.

US$1 = 9,505 Indonesian rupiah


(c)2012 the Asia News Network (Hamburg, Germany)

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