Gili Islands find their own identity as tourism stretches beyond Bali
Once upon a time Bali’s compelling imagery of an exotic tropical island escape with stunning sand swept beaches captured the world’s imagination. Today, the reality of an urbanizing resort destination that is coping with growing pains is seeing an increasing number of beach-centric travelers push beyond Bali to the nearby Gili Islands.
Last year the trio of islands, Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air played host to nearly 450,000 hotel guests. 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%.
According to data from C9 Hotelworks newly released Gili islands Lombok Hotel Market Update 2016 (Click To Download) the market is highly leveraged in the Australian and European geographic segments with 73% of tourists coming from affluent markets, which have kept the Gilis rates robust compared to Bali.
With an average length of stay of three days, there remains a strong linkage to the Island of the Gods with an estimated 80% of tourists using Bali as the gateway to the Gili Islands. 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.
Commenting on the trend, C9 Hotelwork’s Bill Barnett said “destination fatigue, urbanization and a change in travelers tastes towards more natural locations is spurring the move. We have seen a similar pattern in Phuket where a growing number of returns visitors are heading to Khao Lak and the islands in Phang Nga Bay to seek out a less-crowded beach-oriented tropical holiday experience. “
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. 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.
Analyzing the growth prospects of the Gili Islands going forward, C9 Hotelworks has reflected nine new hotel projects with a total of 278 keys. 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. While the Bali connection remains key to current trading levels, longer-term C9 is eying an expected rise in direct international flights to Lombok which will in the medium to long-term become a game changer for access to the Gilis and create a strong underlying fundamental for sustainable growth.