The Jakarta Post
For the regular series of J+ by The Jakarta Post’s regular series on the future of travel, we speak with luminaries in the fields of bespoke vacations, five-star hotels and Indonesian itineraries on the evolving world of travel–and tips for the contemporary voyager. Here we catch up with Nicola Scaramuzzino.
The Italian-born Nicola is from a nation full of history and culture. Growing up in Pisa–where he notes that Galileo studied, Nicola studied geology, transitioned into IT and landed in the hospitality industry, which bought him to Indonesia almost 25 years ago.
This eclectic spirit is something that Nicola’s channelled into his work as director of Product and Marketing for Panorama Destination, one of the Indonesia’s largest and well-known tour operators. But Nicola is at home facing down green snakes with his camera as he is exploring the temples of Central Java.
“I go see temples and small villages with a spirit of history, Nicola says. It’s an experience that he can feel deeply, whether its indulging in the spiritual experience of making batik by hand, cycling or hiking through rice fields, or watching the sunrise over Borobudur from a resort like the Amanjiwo, he adds.
Nicola says he specializes in giving people an edge to planning their perfect vacation by sharing knowledge, so we asked him to share some of what he knows. Here’s what we learned.
On the road
Nicola, who is in the field about one week every month, typically packs what would be a week’s worth activity for a tourist into just two days. His tip: Aim for a morning flight and try to see what’s most interesting within 30 kilometers of the airport on the first day. “I am a tourist, but give myself key points and let the journey unfold.”
However, getting there–especially when that means hopping between the far-flung islands of the archipelago–remains the challenge for the luxury traveler. “How to access a destination is key,” Nicola says. “It’s pointless to visit if it’s hard to get to”-which is why Nicola is thrilled about President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s plan to develop 10 “New Balis”, along with airports.
One more tip: Nicola says to check out some of those emerging destinations at the end of the airports, like where the mountains take on an azure hue when reflecting the blue skies and waters of Lake Toba in North Sumatra. The new Silangit Airport makes it a quick jaunt from Jakarta to Toba. “It has the history, it has the cultural aspects-and it’s easily reachable, even without Silangit. It’s not for honeymooners, but maybe for those seeking a cool climate,” he adds.
Although where to stay nearby Toba is may perplex the luxury traveler, Nicola says not to depend exclusively on star ratings. “Ninety percent of a hotel’s value is service,” he adds. “If I enter a room and the tub is leaking, but its fixed, I won’t remember it. If I order room service and the food is bad, I will- even if it is a luxury place.” Service makes a difference.
Savor the experience
“When I first arrived in Indonesia, people wanted to go to Bali and see the rice fields, the ceremonies, the cremations,” Nicola says.
“Before it was watching an activity, now it’s inside the activity. Now it’s cooking classes. Now it’s an experience inside the rice field.”
Even venerable journeys across the whole of Java, from Jakarta to Surabaya, can be rethought experientially, Nicola says. He’s even devised a journey between the two Javanese cities that takes advantage of heritage hotels and buildings with historic architecture, including the Tugu Kunstkring in Menteng, South Jakarta, or the traditional luxury of the Jadul Adapura on the outskirts of Bandung.
Nicola says he’s also got plans in the works to launch a local rival an African Big-Five safari, i.e., an Indonesian Big Three: a safari to see the Sumatran elephant, orangutans in Kalimantan and Komodo dragons. It’s something that better flights and ground transport have now made possible.