Meet Albert Kok. General Manager of Panorama Destination Management and an advocate for change and growth.
The Panorama Group, or more commonly known as Panorama Tours, was created by Mr. Adhi Tirtawisata forty years ago in a small venue with limited staff and resources. Nowadays it is a collaboration of companies focused on Tourism, Transportation and Hospitality. We are dedicated to innovation, excellent services and sustainable values to the community and the environments where we operate. There are four main areas of operations, which are: Panorama Hotel Management, Transportation, which includes bus and taxi companies like White Horse and White Horse Premium Cab. The Day Trans Executive Shuttles offer something better than public transportation, thus lowering the carbon footprint of personal transport for discerning commuters and travellers. The third area is Destination Management, which is the area I work in. And the last area is outbound destination for Indonesian nationals travelling out of the country, which is a huge growing market.
What does destination management involve?
We handle everything for overseas clients, working with travel agencies in other countries. They handle international flights and we handle all aspects for tourists from the minute they arrive until they leave. That’s my responsibility. We work with all the major hotels, creating full vacation packages, seminars and incentives. Our clients are predominantly European, Canadian and domestic. It sounds simple but we handle several tens of thousands of guests per year. Our work all comes down to exceeding the client’s expectations. Without extensive preparation and understanding of the client’s needs, you fail. Attention to detail is crucial and everyone in the office knows my motto: Check, check, double check. Nobody is allowed to make assumptions. When in doubt, ask. So the most important part of our job actually takes place long before arrival.
So, tell me about your background…
I grew up in Bloemendaal, near Haarlem in the Netherlands. As a child I remember hearing stories at the dinner table about the first charter flights to Spain and things like that. My father was in tourism all of his working life, so it runs in my blood. After my studies I decided not to pursue a career as an accountant and I joined the company that my dad was running. It was specialized in Indonesia and that’s when my love for this country really settled in. From there I climbed up the ladder with large travel agencies like TUI, D-reizen and Thomas Cook. I felt that as long as I enjoy working in tourism, I stay. Twenty years later, I’m still here.
What brought you to Indonesia in the first place?
I met my wife at a travel trade show. She was born in Indonesia and moved with her family to Holland at the age of eleven, so she has one leg in both worlds. Ever since we knew each other we knew there would be one day we would emigrate. I have lived in Spain and we contemplated going there but I also love Asia, especially Indonesia and it was more attractive to my wife. In 2005 we made the decision to move abroad. We quit our jobs, sold our house and then decided to throw in our belongings as well. We arrived in Bali with four suitcases and a five year-old daughter. People thought we were either crazy or brave but it was a good decision for us. It was actually great to sell everything we owned as it teaches us that we don’t need all those possessions, despite me being a gadget freak. We would do it again tomorrow.
That’s a great story. What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?
I love spending time with my family. Making a career in Holland hardly allowed that. Now at least I come home every evening unless I travel. I like photography and video editing. A documentary I made on the island of Sumba has been broadcasted on Indonesian television more than once. Without my permission or credits though, but that is OK. In the weekends I do the cooking, grilling an octopus or smoking a fresh mahi mahi. I also love my 1961 Vespa. It’s a substitute for the classic cars I used to have. Riding is as much fun to me as fixing the frequent mechanical problems. And it’s orange of course!
How do you see us addressing the challenges Bali faces with such rapid growth?
Everybody knows all the suggestions for change. The growth is going really fast now and I think the main issue is how to gain control. I am in favour of growth because it creates jobs and hopefully welfare for those who really need it. Despite the good intentions, laws and regulations in place, there are still many ways in which individuals can get away with things. I’m also in favour of developing other parts of Indonesia. It could take some pressure off Bali and still enhance the total of visitors to Indonesia. Like Thailand for example, which has developed multiple beach, city and round trip destinations. Indonesia will definitely get there, but it will take time.
Some people say Bali is being ruined by big hotels, taxis and cars, and that tourists would be happier to stay in small traditional places and walk more. What are your thoughts?
That may be true for some, but Bali is so attractive because it caters to visitors with so many different interests. I do agree that infrastructure is a problem. Only last week I went to Kuta Beach Walk Mall for the first time. It has great parking facilities, but the traffic to get there had been holding me back all the time. If we can’t widen the roads, we definitely need more parking areas and pedestrian zones. Some good results have been achieved in Legian street on this issue already.
You were explaining something many people forget – doing things in groups, whether families or fellow travellers has less impact on the environment. It is economical and more enjoyable.
That is true and a lot of our business is focused on group tours. However, many people would never choose that way of travel. Still, I am positive we can leave our children a better world. It is our responsibility.
Thank you, Albert. To get in touch, email [email protected]