Chinese celebrities fuelling a luxury wedding boom in Bali

Bali has become a sought-after wedding destination after several high-profile nuptials by mainland and Taiwanese celebrities

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 April, 2017, 4:06pm

Magnificent sunshine, pure blue sky, exquisite villas overlooking the turquoise Indian Ocean – it is easy to figure out why Bali has become a favourite wedding destination for China’s A-list celebrities.

Yet, in a surprising twist, the island’s luxury resorts have also become popular with middle class Chinese couples who’ve taken an interest in Bali as a destination for their own weddings.

In fact, demand is such the island no longer has an “off season” as such, a period when business is particularly slack, according to luxury resort operators.

“We recently went to visit some ultra-luxury hotels in Bali. It was not peak season but the most expensive hotels there were 70 to 80 per cent full due to weddings,” Lily Dawis, a director at developer PT Bali Ragawisata, told the Post in an interview.

“Chinese travellers tend to choose the best ... the Bulgari hotel hosts weddings almost every day,” she added, referring to the Italian fashion label’s namesake resort in Bali. The hotel has recently emerged as a magnet for wedding parties and honeymoons, despite a night’s stay at its one-bedroom villa in April costing US$1,208, according to travel booking site Booking.com.

Dawis is also a daughter of Southeast Asian property-to-consumer mogul Didi Dawis. Her family, one of the richest in Indonesia, have entered into agreements to develop and operate the Mandarin Oriental and Waldorf-Astoria hotels, which are under construction on a 150-hectare site on the southern area of the tropical island.

The picturesque Bali is where big-time Chinese thespians Yang Mi (楊冪) and her Hong Kong husband Hawick Lau tied the knot in 2014. Shanghai actress Liu Shishi, who shot to fame across Asia for romance drama Scarlet Heart, walked down the aisle with Taiwanese actor Nicky Wu there last year. Several months later, their friends, superstar couple Ruby Lin (林心如) and Wallace Huo (霍建華), threw a floral-themed wedding in Bulgari Resort Bali, packed with A-list attendees such as China’s highest-paid actress Fan Bingbing.

Each of the star-studded ceremonies went viral on social media, with photos featuring glamorous brides and grooms along with their guests shared on platforms such as Sina Weibo. The publicity helped raise awareness of Bali and its resorts, an eight-hour flight from Beijing.

Dawis has overseen marketing of the Bali hotel projects being developed by family-owned conglomerate Ling Brothers. The family amassed its fortune through a business empire which at various times encompasses trade, tourism, mining, food and technology.

Romantic getaways: Bali has all the ingredients for a perfect wedding

“When Chinese travellers go to Bali, they don’t mind paying a top price as long as it is for a best-in-class experience,” Dawis said.

“We do have to go ultra luxury, [as] the demand is always there,” she added, explaining why her family signed an agreement to build and operate the Mandarin Oriental.

#liushishi #刘诗诗 #霍建华林心如婚礼

A post shared by 刘诗诗劉詩詩 Cecilia最新图片 (@liushishi__) on Jul 31, 2016 at 1:49am PDT

In the 1980s, when the tropical island was only starting to come into fashion among holidaymakers, Dawis said her mother purchased the first piece of land in the southern peninsula. Over the following decades, the family kept accumulating adjoining parcels, eventually growing its Bali land holding to 150 hectares.

Construction of the resort started in 2010. In the years that followed agreements have been signed with Jardine Group’s Mandarin Oriental, Hilton’s Waldorf-Astoria and Zurich-based Swissôtel. The hotels are part of what will eventually be an integrated resort featuring a golf course, beach club, and other amenities, scheduled to open in 2018.

Dawis says she is optimistic the resort will emerge as a popular wedding venue for China’s rich and famous.

Like many Asian cultures, Chinese are not shy about shelling out for weddings. For centuries, an elaborate wedding ceremony has been read as a sign of wealth and social status for the bride and groom, and their extended families.

However, a new generation of affluent urban Chinese millennials have taken the wedding concept to a more extravagant level.

The Downton Abbey effect on Chinese pre-wedding photo shoots

Chinese couples are on track to overtake their Australian counterparts to become the biggest single group of foreign tourists by nationality in Bali, media outlet Republika reported in February, citing data from the Bali Wedding Association. The number of Chinese visitors is set to rise as a result of improving household incomes.

Twelve million mainland Chinese couples got married last year, data from the Ministry of Civil Affairs showed. Industry groups estimate that the average cost of a wedding in Shanghai has surpassed 200,000 yuan (US$29,000), and is poised to keep rising across all parts of urban China for the next five years.

“Just imagine you get married at the same place where Liu Shishi and Nicky Wu did, and you get exactly the same view of the ocean for your wedding photos. It must be cool,” said David Zhang, an insurance executive in Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan province.

The 30-year-old son of a property entrepreneur plans to visit Bali with his fiancée to tie the knot in the Ayana Resort Spa Bali resort, which hosted the lavish nuptial of Liu and Wu last year. Zhang says his fiancée has already ordered a Vera Wang bridal gown costing more than 100,000 yuan, well above an average Chinese white collar worker’s annual salary.

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