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Independent Minds: Amanda Syrowatka, Viceroy Bali

A strong sense of community lies at the heart of Balinese culture, and of the family-owned Viceroy Bali, a collection of gravity-defying villas set on the edge of a jungle ravine. Intimately involved with the daily details of the resort for the best part of two decades, Amanda Syrowatka gives her personal touch to every guest experience and extends her sense of family to all 180 of her staff members.

The impressive staff-to-villa ratio is just one of the many ways in which Viceroy Bali delivers an ultra-personalised level of service, from adjusting the temperature of each individual pool to creating bespoke itineraries for guests to discover the artist’s village of Ubud and its surrounding landscape of rice fields, tropical trees and eco reserves. In keeping with its green scenery, the resort has been making sustainable choices since opening in 2005 and continues to keep its local community at the forefront of their fundraising activities.

What does being ‘Independently Minded’ as an hotel owner mean to you?

One of the things I love about what we have at Viceroy Bali is the extension of our family to genuinely include those staff that have been with us for a long time, in many cases since we opened in 2005. The retention of staff is down to our inclusive nature and positive environment at the hotel, bringing a sense of belonging and appreciation which translates into a wonderful energy within the hotel grounds. I believe our guests realise this from the moment they arrive. Some of our team have got to know repeater guests personally over the years which strengthens our relationship. Not being part of a chain allows us to provide this sense of family. Equally, we can go above and beyond for special requests and are able to avoid the bureaucracy sometimes seen in chain hotels where the owners aren’t on-site or actively involved.

What was the inspiration behind the hotel, and where do you continue to find sources of inspiration?

My mother and father (Margaret and Otto) first had the idea for the hotel after coming across this spectacular parcel of land whilst on the back of a scooter in the early 2000s. The rice fields led to a pristine jungle ravine that only dreams were made of. The friendly farmer, who still works to this day as a gardener at the hotel, was happy to sell his land, and so began the journey of Viceroy Bali.

During the first months in Bali they fell in love with the Balinese people, our local village and Ubud specifically. Designing and building a hotel was a passion project for our whole family, with members of my family holding General Manager and Director of Sales managerial positions since we opened.

How do you think your hotel stands apart from other boutique hotels?

Given our level of flexibility and attention to detail, I believe our service stands out to guests – which is evident in the fact that we have 180 staff for 28 villas. We go as far as ensuring that our guests’ individual private pools are at their absolute preferred temperature, along with other small details that are key to providing a world-class experience. Knowing more about our guests’ desired itinerary in Bali also allows us to share our personalised knowledge and help make their trip even more memorable. Over the years, we have developed friendships with some of our longstanding guests, which I really enjoy and we have visited them in their home countries and also supported their businesses. Creating a sense of community around your hotel is important to the overall experience of everyone who comes to stay.

If you only had 24 hours to get a taste for your hotel experience, what would you recommend a guest must do?

A 24 hour experience at Viceroy Bali would have to begin with breakfast in their villa Balé bungalow, perched over the infinity pool and overlooking the jungle ravine; followed by a helicopter tour over the volcano and lakes area, departing from our private helipad (the only hotel in Ubud to have this service). After this jaw-dropping experience, guests can reflect and relax by the main pool before meandering to lunch in Cascades Restaurant and sampling an authentic Indonesian rijsttafel tasting menu. Enjoying a long lunch with the valley breeze and overlooking the green vistas could then lead to a pampered afternoon at Lembah Spa for a treatment including massages, body scrubs, and reflexology. For those seeking activities, there are many options for the afternoon including cycling and walking through rice fields, playing squash on our court, enjoying the state-of-the-art gym facilities or attending a yoga class.

Returning to your pool villa to freshen up, the day would continue with an elegant degustation dinner at Apéritif Restaurant – a grand 1920s colonial-inspired restaurant and bar with incredible classic cocktails and a global menu that uses the spices of the rich Indonesian archipelago. An evening swim in your heated private pool or a flower petal bath would be the perfect way to unwind after such a sensational dining experience.

How would you describe your own perfect luxury experience?

My family’s perfect luxury experience would be a lot like the 24 hour stay at Viceroy in the previous question! To expand on that though, I think guest service and quality of dining are two areas that are crucial to luxury and any issues in these two areas will ruin a luxury experience.

I also believe that five-star hotels need to continually be renovating rooms, fixing issues and have the highest quality finishes – too often you see tired rooms or cheap finishes that detract from the luxury feel. You want to feel like a superstar the whole way through your experience, which cannot be achieved when there are noticeable issues in your room, hotel facilities or guest service.

Do you have a vision for the future of the hotel?

My vision for the future of the hotel is to continue to develop a place that I am proud to call home – sustainable, supportive of the community and considered the best. It’s a legacy I hope to pass down through our family.

Viceroy Bali has been pursuing sustainable practices since opening, with the installation of solar panels, a water sanitisation plant, no-waste mantra in our restaurants, no single use plastic and other green initiatives. For example, we have our own greenhouse and productive vegetable gardens to ensure quality and limit our produce transportation footprint. Guests enjoy knowing their food has been grown on the grounds and being able to walk through the gardens. We feel a great sense of social responsibility to ensure that our village and others nearby have adequate access to well-supplied schools, health facilities and other necessities. Community is a huge part of Balinese culture and we give back through our own initiatives, joint initiatives with Rotary Club and fundraising for organisations such as Bali Children’s Project.