REDEFINING SUSTAINABLE LUXURY
In less than one year of opening along a pristine river valley just north of Ubud, TripAdvisor recognises Ayung Resort Ubud with a coveted Travelers’ Choice Award 2014 for “Top 25 Hotels in Indonesia.”
As I sit down with the resort’s General Manager, Bapak Frits Henskes, in a plush club chair that overlooks 180-degree views of the enchanting rainforest that surrounds the property, I automatically assume that the charming Dutch man is fresh off the boat from Holland. But like the resort itself, encompassing over 8 hectares of lush tropical gardens, there is much more to him than meets the eye. Born and raised in Jakarta to a mother from Bogor and father from Holland, the blue-eyed local displays a passion for Indonesia and Bali that is rivaled only by his commitment to running the perfect hotel.
When I ask him about garnering one of the hospitality industry’s most coveted awards, he humbly ignores his own efforts, which often keeps him on the grounds 24/7, and praises Ayung Resort’s staff. “I am very proud of our staff. A great hotel is all about the service, and our staff is the engine behind our success. We offer true Balinese hospitality, service with a heart.”
Since every General Manager admits that finding – and keeping – good staff members is one of the most difficult aspects of their jobs, Frits explains that he sources the majority of Ayung Resort’s employees from the surrounding community with a handful of key people brought in from established luxury resorts on the island. “I didn’t look at schooling or experience whatsoever during the interview process. For each individual, I asked myself: Is he or she willing to work? For some of our star employees, including the Executive Chef and Spa Director, I snooped around the top resorts. I contacted my friends in the industry and asked their permission first if I could make these individuals an offer. All of these people live in Ubud, but were making the lengthy commute to Seminyak and Nusa Dua. I brought them back home, allowing them to work in a peaceful Balinese environment much closer to their families.”
Having grown up in the hospitality industry, Frits polished his skills with schooling in Canada and then several decades travelling the world with top international hotel brands. Having known the owner of Ayung Resort for over 30 years, he accompanied him to the property during the construction phase and fell in love with the raw beauty of the land. “I immediately knew that this was a one-of-a-kind property, not to be found anywhere else in the world. Hospitality is in my blood; I cannot just sit in my office all day pushing paperwork around. Over my career, I have done every job there is to do at a hotel and that’s what I do here. From behind the kitchen to working in the gardens, I am in the field with my people and they recognise that. We’re a team.”
Sensitive to the rapid development that is happening in Bali, Ayung Resort strives to turn back the clock. “Many of our guests admit that they’re shocked when they visit places like Kuta, Seminyak and Legian. It is not the Bali that they dreamed of. It is not Bali’s fault that our beaches are polluted and development has been allowed to go fast forward. For those of us who truly love Bali, we must work together to find innovative ways to preserve this magical island, and innovation doesn’t necessarily have to be fancy or high-tech. We give all of our food waste to local pig farmers to feed their livestock – for free. It’s a win-win. We have completely banned plastic from the property and are as paperless as possible. We need to help each other if we’re ever going to realise the dream of living in a clean and green Bali.”