Escape / August 2017

New Paradise Beyond Bali

By Yanto Soegiarto

Nihiwatu, now renamed the Nihi Resort on Sumba Island in East Nusa Tenggara, has been named the world’s best hotel for two consecutive years. Dubbed a “new paradise beyond Bali” by readers of Travel+Leisure magazine, the Nihi Resort offers tree-house villas situated on top of a cliff as well as 33 other private villas with their own swimming pools, all constructed with local and organic material.

James McBride, managing director and part-owner of Nihi Resort, said the hotel offers eco-friendly spaces as well as island exploration expeditions, where guests can engage with local communities. “I think luxury is an over-used term. If you build a resort by the beach, that’s no longer luxury to me. Our accommodation is elegant and built with local products, but luxury is not about what you build. It’s about people and experiences, and those two together are what makes us excellent,” McBride said.

Rooms at Nihi Resort start at $750 a night, with a minimum stay of three nights. A five-bedroom estate can cost from $6,350 to $14,175 per night. Guests can reach Sumba Island by taking flights to either Tambolaka Airport in West Sumba or Waingapu Airport in East Sumba.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said his office expects a boom in tourism on Sumba after Nihi Resort was named the best hotel in the world. The award would give confidence to Sumba residents to promote tourism to their island, he said.

“In the region, we must compete with Vietnam to boost tourism, but we need to work on easing regulations, which are not appealing to investors,” the minister was quoted as saying by Jakarta Globe. Vietnam is the only Southeast Asian country mentioned as a “most improved country” in the World Economic Forum’s 2017 travel and tourism competitiveness index. That list also includes Japan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Israel.

Arief said the main problem facing the tourism industry in Indonesia is tight government regulations. To change that, the minister has urged provinces to create special economic zones and show preferential treatment to investors in tourism facilities.

“Tourist destinations must establish their own economic zones and give investors special treatment so they do not have to deal with local bureaucracy. It should be like a one-stop service for investors.”

Aloysius Seran from Sumba’s Development Planning Board said the island has become better known in recent years. “We used to be less famous than Sumbawa in West Nusa Tenggara, but now people are more familiar. We are hoping the government will show support and help build our infrastructure and improve local education and health services, empowering our communities,” Aloysius said.

Nihi Resort is also owned by Christopher Burch, the founder and CEO of Burch Creative Capital. He has been an entrepreneur and active investor across a wide range of industries for nearly 40 years.

He has contributed to the rise of many technology and luxury brands, including Faena Hotel+Universe, Jawbone, Tory Burch, Poppin and Voss Water.  He is a former board member of Tory Burch, Guggenheim Capital and The Continuum Group.

Burch’s entrepreneurial success began in 1976 when he was still an undergraduate at Ithaca College. With his brother Bob, he invested $2,000 to start Eagle’s Eye apparel, a business they grew and then sold to Swire Group for $165 million.

Burch then became one of the earliest investors in Internet Capital Group, a well-known IPO story in the internet space.

He has invested in several domestic and international real estate ventures, including a partnership with architect Philippe Stark and hotelier Alan Faena in Argentina to redevelop an under-utilized parcel of land into the Faena Hotel+Universe.

Meanwhile, James McBride is a global hotelier who has led some of the world’s leading hotels during his 25-year professional career. Known for his limitless creativity, clever marketing and exceptional experiences, he has raised the bar in the hospitality industry, paving the way for inventive ideas and competitive spirit.

McBride transitioned to hotel entrepreneur in 2012 when he partnered with long-time friend and investor Chris Burch on the acquisition of Nihi Resort.