Indonesia's super-wealthy still love their Gulfstreams and Harley Davidsons
Veven Wardhana and Herry Barus
What if we try to track down some of Indonesia's super-rich for whom travelling is a hobby and find out something about their special travel preferences? The first thing we discover is that the travel bureaus in Indonesia are coy about providing any information. We suspect that this is not because their clients insist on confidentiality but more because it's a mystery to the travel bureaus themselves. The problem is that most of your Indonesian super-rich don't book their plane tickets through travel agents. They just jump on a private jet. Nor are the companies which look after the privately owned planes keen to talk. They are unwilling to release information, many of them, because they are close to ex-president Suharto's family, and our own enquiries came just after Suharto announced his resignation from the presidency. Only one or two of them were able to help us, and even then they wouldn't say much.
The existence of aviation charter companies in Indonesia is not a new phenomenon. PT Dayajasa Transindo Pratama for example has been going since 1986, while Indonesian Air Transport (IAT) started up even earlier, in 1968. The majority of air charter aircraft are leased out by the oil companies. Recently, however a number of private individuals have begun to appreciate the benefits of jet-powered travel. And we don't necessarily mean leasing. Many of them find the purchase option increasingly attractive, especially with the demands of business being what they are in this era of globalisation, when fast communications with the outside world have become an absolute necessity.
Once you have the jet, of course, you find that it's useful not only for business purposes but also for taking the family on trips abroad business permitting, that is. Families who often make use of private jets include Pontjo Sutowo, Sudwikatmono, Aburizal Bakrie and also Abdul Latief.
Private jet prices can range from US$3 million to US$33 million. This figure does not include the cost of fitting out the interior of the aircraft. After the purchase has been transacted, the interior decor and external colour scheme are dependent on customer taste. Communications and navigation equipment likewise: although standard installations are provided, it is common for executives everywhere, including Indonesia, to specify more sophisticated equipment as they might if they were buying a yacht to sail around in.
On larger aircraft, the cabin lends itself for conversion to sleeping quarters. The ALatief Corporation's BAC 1-11, for example, in its original configuration could accommodate 100 passengers. After purchasing the aircraft, ALatief remodelled the interior completely, leaving seating for only 18 passengers. This made space for a large bedroom, a bathroom complete with shower and vanity with gold-plated faucets, and two sofas. The additional cost of conversions like this can be as much as US$3 million or from 10 to 20 percent of the purchase price of the aircraft.
Apart from the capital cost, the expense of using an aircraft can be gauged from the operating costs. Fuel, maintenance and catering alone can cost up to US$2,500 per flying hour. And then there are crew salaries, training, insurance and hangarage which might be as much as US$30,000 per month. These rates are for a new aircraft, whereas the rates for a used aircraft can be even higher. The maintenance cost for the aircraft operated by Sudwikatmono and associates is US$100,000 per month. 'Not including spare parts as required,' said the cinema chain king Sudwikatmono.
But are they privately owned, these aircraft? Isn't private ownership of aircraft banned by government regulation? Well, just as the shadow puppeteer is never without a story, so your Indonesian entrepreneur is never without a way around the regulations. As in the case of the prohibition on private ownership of islands, where it was found that Indonesian executives who were rich enough could acquire them in the name of a company, so also can your private plane be acquired in the name of a company.
Unlike private islands, though, most private planes are made available by their owners for commercial use by others. In other words, the private aircraft is actually placed in the hands of an aviation charter firm and made available for hire. Pontjo Sutowo's Gulfstream IV, for example, is looked after by Indonesian Air Transport, as are the aircraft of Aburizal Bakrie and Sudwikatmono. 'The maintenance costs are prohibitive if you don't get some commercial return,' explained Sudwikatmono.
Setya Novanto, president director of PT Citra Permatasakti Persada, a consortium of companies active in a variety of fields, and also the owner of the Tee Box Cafe, a watering hole in South Jakarta, tends to choose his travel destinations with the help of the rest of the family. 'Once, before the difficult times caused by the monetary crisis, the children would all come along. I would arrange my own holidays to coincide with the children's school vacation time. Usually I would make the arrangements a month ahead. But in the critical times we're going through now I haven't made any plans, and I think the children understand the situation,' said this businessman, author of the book Manajemen Soeharto (1997).
If the children were on their long vacation, Novanto would take them to Disneyland or other places suitable for children of their age. Otherwise, in the summer, they might choose to go together to Europe. For the shorter vacations, they might go somewhere within Indonesia. Bali was a favourite destination.
Another kind of travelling is indulged in by members of a different set of super-rich Indonesians. They are the Harley Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts. They have an association called the Harley Davidson Club of Indonesia, HDCI. Because of their love of this particular make of motorcycle, you can be sure that the travelling the members of the association do will always involve this favourite mode of transport of theirs. Recently they organised a tour to Daytona, USA.
Achmad Rizal, executive director of the well-known Jakarta restaurant 'Waroeng Kemang', a member of HDCI, hasn't missed one annual visit to South Dakota in the last three years. Sturgis, South Dakota is the world's other Harley Davidson Mecca. Harley Davidson enthusiasts flock here from all over the world at the same time every year. 'At that time there would be upwards of 250,000 Harley Davidson enthusiasts getting together to talk about the Harley or show off their riding skills on the Harley Davidson. It's a lot of fun. One year, 1997, there were a million people there, all Harley Davidson enthusiasts,' he said.
Rizal usually goes with ten other HD enthusiasts from Indonesia. When they arrive in the land of Uncle Sam, the Indonesian team members go straight off to collect their Harley Davidsons from a hire company and set off on the road to the rallying point on their hired machines complete with all the essential attributes and accessories. And what does the Indonesian delegation do when they get to their destination? 'Ya, immerse ourselves in the general Harley-mania, buy up gear and accessories sporting the HD logo or buy HD parts and equipment to take home and install on our own machines in Indonesia.'
When it comes to cost, Rizal explains that the members of the group will each have their own budget. 'On a tour like this, involving your favourite hobby, there's no limit to the amount you might spend. Each person would spend at least Rp15 million. That would be just for the plane ticket and hotel. Then you would need about Rp10 million to hire a Harley. Some people would spend Rp 35 million to Rp 40 million on one trip,' Rizal said.
Besides touring America on Harley Davidsons, Rizal with a number of Jakarta and Bandung business associates once made a round trip of 960 kilometres on the continent of Australia. Starting from the Gold Coast, this trip took them along the Eastern seaboard and into the mountains, with opportunity to sample the renowned Australian seafood and visit all the popular tourist spots. As well, they are frequent visitors to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand needless to say, on their Harley Davidsons.
Abdul Latief, Minister of Labour (1993-1998), Minister of Tourism, Art and Culture (16 March 21 May 1998), CEO of the holding company ALatief Corporation with subsidiaries in the construction, retail, agribusiness and hotel industries including the supermarket chain PT Pasaraya Toserjaya.
Aburizal Bakrie, Board Chairman of Grup Bakrie and Brothers, Chair of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), major shareholder in Bank Nusa, May Bank Nusa International, PT Daya Sarana Pratama and other companies.
Achmad Rizal, well-known professional in the hospitality industry, especially bars and cafes, executive director of Jakarta restaurant 'Waroeng Kemang'.
Pontjo Nugro Susilo Sutowo, President Director of Nugra Sentana, major shareholder in about 30 business companies including a marine dry dock, CEO of PT Indobuild Company which manages the Jakarta Convention Centre, and Chairman of the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association (PHRI).
Setya Novanto, Executive Director of PT Dwisetya Indolestari; board member of a number of companies, including PT Solusindo Mitrasejati, PT Dwimakmur and PT Multi Dwisentosa, board chairman of PT Bukit Granit Mining Mandiri and PT Nagoya Plaza Hotel; as well as having a key role with one of Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana's companies in the national driver's licence computerisation project.
Sudwikatmono, owner of a business empire comprising the Subendra Group, Jababeka Group and Golden Truly Group, and one of the four Indonesian business tycoons known as The Gang of Four; the other three being Liem Sioe Liong, Djuhar Sutanto, and Ibrahim Risjad.
Veven Wardhana (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a virtual media editor with Gramedia Majalah in Jakarta. He also coordinates the Media Watch programme at the Institute for the Free Flow of Information (ISAI). Herry Barus is a journalist with Warta Kota (Jakarta), and before that covered professional lifestyles for Tiara magazine. This article is extracted with permission from their book 'Para Superkaya Indonesia'(Jakarta: ISAI, December 1998). John Gare (email@example.com) was the translator.