By Tanja Harjuniemi

The Finnish-owned boutique hotel, Hani Hideaway, jumped to the top of customer reviews right after it opened last August. At the core of the customer experience are attentive staff, a homely atmosphere, and a beautiful ambiance.

Serial entrepreneur and angel investor Markko Vaarnas and his partner, entrepreneur Tiina Slotte, decided to invest in the hotel business in Gili Air, Indonesia, a year ago; a dream that had been brewing in their minds for some time.

The small island belongs to the Gili Islands group and is located a couple of hours by boat from Bali. On their holiday trip at the turn of 2022–23, Vaarnas and Slotte found an exciting hotel site and a local couple to help establish and operate the property.

After this, things progressed rapidly; during the first quarter of 2023, the company was established, the hotel site was rented, and the renovation started. The eight-room boutique hotel opened in August 2023.

“Practically, the hotel has been fully booked for the whole of these eight months, and the customer reviews are first-rate,” says Vaarnas.

“Even though we are both experienced entrepreneurs, starting a business in a foreign country and a new industry required much work. So far, however, everything has worked out amazingly well.”

Key factors are successful conceptualization and satisfied personnel

“We had a vision of a boutique hotel with a design and service that we like – an aesthetically beautiful ambiance and a homely atmosphere. We positioned ourselves between luxury villas and guest houses popular with backpackers,” Vaarnas describes.

Vaarnas and Slotte manage the hotel remotely from Finland, and the local hotel manager and his team are responsible for operational management on-site.

“The arrangement is successful because we are on the same page with the hotel manager. He is committed to implementing our value proposition and maintaining the desired service level and atmosphere.”

Digital tools, such as real-time financial monitoring, also facilitate remote management.

“We are also smoothly digital, meaning that we keep in touch with customers on WhatsApp and the market on Booking.com and Instagram.

Fix the paperwork with local professionals

As a foreign investor, Vaarnas emphasizes using local professionals to handle legal matters and financial administration.

“Many people try to save on initial costs by adjusting these things themselves, but from the beginning, we invested in using professionals,” Vaarnas says.

Vaarnas used Seven Stones Indonesia’s services to set up the company, conduct due diligence on the hotel site, and conclude lease agreements.

“Indonesia is a challenging business environment, but not impossible. For example, establishing a 100% foreign-owned company is possible today.”

According to Vaarnas, customary business laws work in Indonesia, and with professional entrepreneurship, the equation can be made to work.

“The strength of the Bali region as an investment target is that there is enough tourist flow all year round, and the costs of doing business are reasonable,” Vaarnas concludes.

 

To see the property, go to: Hani Hideaway at www.hanihideaway.com

Photo by Markko Vaarnas

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