Massimiliano de Reviziis is an Italian entrepreneur living in Labuan Bajo, Flores and owner of tour company Flores XP Adventure, a company providing tourists with a truly unique experience of the area. We talk to him about his tour company and his concerns for the future of this region.
Massimiliano, let’s start at the beginning of your Indonesia adventure. You moved here 11 years ago – what brought you here in the first place?
My two brothers were already living in Bali for two years when I came to visit them. At that time I had just finished my studies and in Italy the crisis was starting. I found opportunities in Bali first, and then I found love – I met the girl who became my wife – and so I prolonged my holiday, and 11 years later I am still here!
What made you decide to move from living in Bali to a life in East Nusa Tenggara?
Bali is not the place I felt in love with 11 years ago; it became crowded, dirty, polluted – even the people changed. I and a few friends of mine invested in a little island resort, Kanawa Island, here in Flores, and so I decided to move to this amazing area, to live in touch with nature.
Where did the idea to start Flores XP Adventure come from? Do you have any competitors?
It started by looking at what was available and what wasn’t in the market. We offer tours that are very different from others. We saw a big demand for multi-day tours, especially on the sea, but people were suffering sleeping on boats and getting seasick, so we decided to offer the option of camping on a desert island and so far we have received excellent feedback.
What services does your company offer?
We offer adventure tours in Komodo National Park, with the possibility to scuba dive, as well as inland tours, all with serviced camping, comfortable boats, experienced guides and PADI Divemasters. All of our tour leaders have Emergency First Response certifications and can speak English.
How many staff do you have in total today?
We have a total of 24 staff at the moment.
Talk us through a typical day for you running your company in Labuan Bajo.
I do not run the company myself; I believe in creating opportunities for local people. My wife and I created this company and trained a good team to run it, giving them the opportunity to grow. For example, we transformed two simple guys who had few skills into very good tour leaders – professional and reliable – and this year we just made them Divemasters, sponsoring the whole course for them. I mostly supervise, teach and help my staff. I go on some of the tours, but mostly as a client, enjoying the diving, since they can handle everything themselves now. Our goal is to make some of our staff partners of the company.
You also offer camping trips. What’s the most popular one and why? Why do you feel it’s important for tourists to experience how locals live?
Our most popular tour is the three-day Dragon Tour, which is a camping tour on a desert island, and we explore the best of Komodo National Park, including trekking with dragons on Komodo and Rinca, snorkelling or diving with manta rays, and snorkelling and/or diving in the best spots of the national park, including the famous pink beach, Batu Bolong, and Mawan Island.
We also go and visit the local traditional village of Rinca, where locals have been living for hundreds of years in harmony with the dragons. It is very important that tourists experience the local way of life – learning their ways and how they survive in hard areas is a really mind-opening experience.
Where do your visitors generally come from? Can you share the demographics and have you noticed any changes in them lately?
Most of our clients are European, the majority Italian, Spanish and French. But we get a lot of expats living in Indonesia and Singapore, too. And the number of local Indonesian tourists is also growing.
Are you noticing any new trends from today’s travellers?
The trend is that people are looking for nature; they want to get away from crowded, polluted places, and from modernity.
Everybody is happy on our tours – there is no WiFi and little or no phone signal in the area.
How do you ensure service is excellent every time? Is finding good staff difficult?
Finding good staff is not easy and lots of training is required. To keep our staff motivated we offer bonuses, and chances of career progression.
Sustainability is important to you. How do you ensure sustainability through the tours your company offers? Do you only hire local staff on your liveaboard?
We mostly hire local staff. We have one foreigner, a Spanish manager, and one lady from Semarang working in the office – everybody else is from Flores. We believe in using local products and local energies in order to help grow the local economy.
You own two boats and three cars and are very busy with the tour company. Tell us what Flores has to offer the traveller that other places don’t.
Our main difference is constant service, and the camping adventure. We always listen to our clients; we try to understand what they want in order to offer them the right product.
You are also owner of Kanawa Island Resort, a resort on a 26-hectare island located on the border of Komodo National Park. Did you take a lease on the island? How difficult was it to set this resort up?
Yes, I am one of the shareholders of Kanawa Island Resort, and commissioner of the company. We have a few HGB (Hak Guna Bangunan) certificates under the company name on the island. Nothing is easy in this country, but if you love it and have a passion for it, then everything is possible.
What challenges do you face living and working in Labuan Bajo?
There are a lot of challenges. This is a fast growing town, but it is still missing a lot of infrastructure like water, energy, and waste disposal – things people take for granted.
With a new airport, marina, hospital and even a Lippo Mall being built in Labuan Bajo, are you concerned about the preservation of this area’s natural beauty? What can be done to ensure that the area is not ruined through development?
Yes, I am concerned. I am worried it is moving too fast. I just hope proper infrastructure will be put in place. I am personally really happy about the hospital because that was needed here. But we also need a water system, electricity and proper roads. But what I’d like to say is in town they can do what they want, as long as the national park is protected.
Let’s talk about Komodo National Park. Who runs this park and do you feel it is well looked after?
Komodo National Park is run by the department of forestry in Jakarta and in my humble opinion not a good job has been done so far with it. It is getting dirty, very busy, and there is a lot of illegal fishing with no control at all.
We asked the local national park authorities if we could work together to organise cleaning days on Komodo and Rinca islands, install additional mooring buoys and create a proper radio and WhatsApp channel for the diving and tour operator community in order to report problems or activities inside the park when the boats are out. We are still waiting for a reply from them.
Do you have any plans to leave East Nusa Tenggara?
Not at all, I love this area and I plan to stay here for a very, very long time.
If you had one dream for the area of Flores/East Nusa Tenggara, what would it be?
I hope that Flores will be developed in a smart way, respecting nature, and that the park will be protected for many generations to come. I wish renewable energies will be introduced in the area, but my main hope is that local people will keep their smiles and friendliness, even when money will come here.
Thank you, Massimiliano. To get in touch, please email: [email protected]