Interview – Mike Parker-Brown

Mike Parker-Brown, Little Bali Hotel & Resort Company (LBHRC)
A new vibrancy has been brought to Bali by an audacious online campaign that entices Australians to return to the island. Now gaining widespread media interest – and mega-hits on the site, – the organizers, a group of Bali tourism-related businesses called The Little Bali Hotel & Resort Company (LBHRC), hope their efforts will go someway towards being a turning point for Bali. The Bali Times spoke this week with LBHRC cofounder Mike Parker-Brown.

What effect is the campaign having on Bali, would you say?
The Bali travel market from Australia still, potentially, represents the destination’s biggest source market and we like to think that the Where the Bali hell are you? campaign has acted as a catalyst for the re-ignition of some very positive interest in the destination.
More to the point, the people with the most at stake here are the Balinese and they are the ones we really want to see gain some benefit from this rekindled interestHaving launched the concept on November 2, we have been amazed at the huge response from both consumers and the travel industry alike. And it’s not just Australia that has taken notice.The Where the Bali hell are you? online viral marketing campaign, which formed the perfect launch pad for the LBHRC concept, has so far attracted more than 110,000 unique visitors from 25 countries. But we’re expecting those figures to go through the roof following this week’s national TV coverage.It’s safe to say the campaign has had, initially, an astonishingly positive and very immediate effect.What sort of direct feedback are you hearing about it?
Feedback has been huge and in the main extremely positive – our phones have been running hot and we’ve been swamped with emails from all over the world from people wanting to congratulate us on our efforts on behalf of Bali.
But of course there are always detractors – and we have received a few negative comments.
The best feedback to date has been from Australian Federal Minister for Tourism Fran Bailey, who has been asked to comment on the Where the Bali hell are you? campaign on several occasions.Emails have in fact played a major role all of this. Our online viral marketing campaign was designed to be sent from inbox to inbox and once the word got around, so did the Where the Bali hell are you? clip.The Australian media, too, have played a major role in all of this. The LBHRC campaign has received huge print and online coverage – both in Australia and overseas. If you look at the TV, radio and print coverage we have achieved in the last 48 hours alone, the campaign would have reached more than two million Australians.Channel Ten ran the story four times as national news items between November 14-15, complete with clip and an interview with Ms Bailey. The campaign was also covered this morning (Thursday) on TCN Channel Nine’s Today Show. The campaign has also been broadcast on the Nova Radio national network.Anyone complain that it’s based on the Australian Tourist Commission’s “bloody” campaign?
No – no complaints to date – not even from Ms Bailey.It’s fair to say that we have taken a bit of a lend of the Where the bloody hell are you? campaign – we weren’t exactly subtle about it. But cost-wise we couldn’t be further apart. The Australia campaign cost upwards of AUS$180 million (US$137 million), whereas the Where the Bali hell are you? campaign cost under $3,000 ($2,293). Ms Bailey has described the Where the Bali hell are you? clip as “cheeky.” She also admitted the LBHRC effort was “very funny” and that “imitation was the sincerest form of flattery.”Do you think the campaign is having the desired effect, to make Australians wake up to the fact that Bali is fine and it’s time to return?
Judging by the initial knee-jerk response, yes, we do think we are having the desired effect. It’s probably the first time in more than four years someone has been able to gain positive coverage for Bali. But to put everything into its correct perspective, we are being very realistic and holding firmly to the fact that we only launched this campaign on November 2 – less than three weeks ago.The biggest reaction to date, and one that we like to think we may have played in part in, has been the Garuda Indonesia (GA) decision announced on Wednesday to continue to provide direct services from Australia to Bali from next year.
While the main thrust of the LBHRC campaign has always been to reignite interest in the destination, we were hopeful the huge reaction to our campaign would also play a role in helping GA to change its stance. Maybe it has and maybe it hasn’t but we are aware, judging by the response to our online campaign and feedback received, especially from the travel industry, that the carrier had been under immense pressure from within Australia and Indonesia to maintain its direct Denpasar services.

The GA call is going to make a huge difference to Bali and LBHRC is very happy to be seen to have actually helped in some way to make that difference.

We’ve also been told today that Flight Centres, Australia’s travel agency chain, has just announced a new Bali sales initiative which, again, we like to think has something to do with the Where the Bali hell are you? campaign. (BT)

Filed under: The Big Questions

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