Jenny Tan – Owner, Lelewatu Resort Sumba

Homeward Bound

Passionate about each and every adventure that comes her way, Jenny Tan found her calling in the hospitality industry. After building some hotels and villas in Bali, she decided it was time to head back to her hometown of Sumba and build one of the first luxurious accommodations there. Jenny sat down with Asia Dreams to talk more about Lelewatu.

Q: How did you get into the real estate business in the first place?
A: I was working in sales and marketing in a company that focused on properties in Surabaya from 1994 until 1998. Then in 2003, a friend asked me to join his property business as a passive partner. Along the way, I had to take over the whole property and I started my stint in the industry. Before I knew it, the business gained great success in buying and selling houses. As time went by, I tried to branch out to tourist-type properties. I’ve built and operated some villas and hotels in Bali, like The Wolas Villas & Spa, Sense Hotel Seminyak and Sense Sunset Seminyak Hotel. Now I’m really excited with the latest project, Lelewatu Resort Sumba. The complexity of the hospitality industry actually intrigued me to learn more and develop myself further in the industry. I learned how to connect with different kinds of people from this business.

Q: Has it always been a passion for you?
A: I always love new adventures, and I usually dedicate my time to do each of my projects wholeheartedly. I guess that includes my new adventure in the hospitality industry, it has become my passion.

Q: After your venture in the hospitality scene in Bali, what made you decide to open Lelewatu Resort in Sumba?
A: Sumba is an exotic island with many attractions and I found the people’s ability to stay in harmony with the beautiful nature amazing. I would really like to go back to the land where I was born, to help build the Sumba community, even in a small way. After opening some hotels in Bali, I learned that Bali has seen too many hotels, while on the other hand, there was barely any luxury resort in Sumba to accompany the incredible journeys the island has to offer. That was when the idea came to fruition.

Q: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve come across as property developer and owner so far, and how did you overcome it?
A: Upon building Lelewatu Resort Sumba, I found that the infrastructure, transportation, local manpower and many supporting elements in Sumba still needed much work and fine-tuning. I’ve tried to work together with the local government and community to enable better access so that together we can develop and bring Sumba to betterment.

Q: What skills do you think are necessary to make your business such a booming success?
A: Communication is important. To meet, network and connect with different people from different backgrounds will do a lot for the success of any business. In Lelewatu Resort Sumba’s case, I think I need to be able to introduce Sumba as a new destination that has world-class attractions, while maintaining Sumba’s heritage Marapu philosophy in life.

Q: For those who are not familiar yet with the resort, can you elaborate on what makes Lelewatu Resort Sumba special and why people should visit and stay?
A: The resort was built to be in harmony with the magnificent cliff-top setting, surrounding lush rainforests, private lagoon and breathtaking elevated views of the Indian Ocean. The resort is inspired by and has adopted traditional Sumba houses and arts, as evident in the local arts and unique amenities like the famous ikat Sumba weaving found at the resort. Lelewatu Resort Sumba is the perfect place to celebrate personal indulgences and romance, with the combination of unspoilt nature, gracious service and bespoke island life.

Q: Do you have any goal for yourself and Lelewatu Resort Sumba this year?

A:  I personally would like to develop Sumba with a sustainable way of life, so that the next generations can still enjoy the richness of the island. As the “island of hope”, I want Lelewatu Resort Sumba to be able to share the Sumba experience with the whole world, including its harmonious way with nature and the rich Sumba heritage.

Q: What advice would you give to people looking to emulate your success?
A: Never give up and keep learning. It’s all a process to make us stronger and a test to see how much we’re willing to fight for it. Love what you do and share your experiences with people who can assist you to achieve a great result in the end. You need to remember, that in any field of work, we should work hard and let God do the rest.