What a ride it has been opening our first Bliss Sanctuary For Women in Canggu in April 2011, moving to our new Canggu Sanctuary in 2017 and recently being faced with a big choice to stay or go due to the popularity of the Canggu area leading to high growth and thus building around us.
It is the most beautiful sanctuary retreat, we have won so many awards, we have so many 5-star tripadvisor reviews and our guests absolutely love it… and yet we were faced with potentially having to close… or move again.
Devastating… or a new opportunity?
When I first got to Bali our original Canggu Sanctuary was surrounded by nothing but rice paddies and the road wasn’t even paved. There were a few other villas dotted around and now today that street is a thriving bustling street with restaurants, a supermarket, other shops and a skate ramp!!! So thankfully we moved when we did … The whole area of Canggu in Bali is growing at such a rate, so fast, it’s constantly listed on forums and press as the place to be in Bali.
The whole of Canggu is actually a really large precinct incorporating Berawa, Batu Belong, Echo Beach and stretching further inland away from the beach also. There are now so many beach clubs like Finns & Cafe Del Mar, new Hotels, so many shops and boutiques and eateries, renowned places like Deus for live music and cool vibes and more. People are flocking to Canggu. It has been branded the new place to go in Bali and ‘up and coming’… and there is construction and building EVERYWHERE!
Including on our street and more recently (Sept 2019) right next door.
Bali is very different to other countries and you get no prior warning. They can just rock up with trucks and start clearing the land and this is what happened to us and what also happens in other growth areas overseas which seems to be almost everywhere at the moment!
I remember a trip to Sri Lanka where I booked an upgrade room in a renowned beachfront Hotel in Colombo. I was going with a group of friends for a 40th and that’s where we were all staying. It looked beautiful and so I didn’t think much more of it. The welcome and overall service was impeccable. Then I got to my beachfront room and right out the front they were building a huge construction project from the sand right out into the ocean Dubai style. Like literally kilometres and kilometres out to sea but they were still on the beach with trucks and cranes and it was noisy, dusty, stinky and ridiculous! I’ve never experienced anything like it. Luckily what is happening in Canggu is nothing like that!
We were given no prior warning by the Hotel when we booked or any time prior to our arrival. We were given no monetary compensation. The room was still considered an upgrade and it was expensive. I just had to put up with it. And yes this is what comes with traveling to a developing country. Actually it comes everywhere … they’re building all over New York at the moment for example and it’s difficult not to be faced with construction all over the world.
When this happened to us in Bali though I was devastated and a little bit stunned. Which I shouldn’t have been as the business has been in Bali for almost 9 years now! Really I just didn’t know what to do for our poor guests who were there at the time. We moved one to Ubud and the others were so kind and accepting. Understanding it was not our fault and we did everything we could to ensure a wonderful stay for them. Luckily they took those days sightseeing which they were wanting to do anyway, we moved yoga a little earlier and had treatments a bit later and all was mostly blissful.
Then I was faced with the undeniable fact that it was loud and would continue to be that way. We had no control. We had no idea how long it will take, yes they gave us a date but this never goes to plan. And many builds in Bali stop halfway through, go silent and then start again 7 months later as an example. As such it was even impossible to let our guests wanting to book know if this would or wouldn’t be occurring during their stay as some of our guests book way in advance.
I sat down, had a cry after an abusive email from someone who hadn’t even booked with us accusing me of trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes. And then I put my business hat on, added in my heart and really challenged myself about what we wanted Bliss to be and the experience we wanted our guests to have.
And I decided we needed to close down.
I had a migraine for a week after this. It was such a stressful decision affecting 20 staff who are like family and who we may need to let go. Knowing guests would be so disappointed as so many like to come back again and again to their favourite Canggu Sanctuary.
But all we could be was honest and give them choices.
Then we went into full swing. We had to contact all of our guests coming in the next few days to the next month and offer them the choice to a) still come with a further discount b) cancel for a full refund c) swap their stay to another sanctuary (of which we had very few availabilities at the time). It was stressful. Yet so many of our beautiful guests were so forgiving and understanding, which I am overwhelmingly thankful for.
Most of the responses we got said something along the lines of … ‘firstly we’re so sorry you’re going through this (bless their hearts), secondly we’re really disappointed…’ So were we. More than anyone will ever truly know until you’re put into this position as a business. Especially a small business like Bliss which is run all with heart, soul and purpose and all self-funded.
It was devastating.
Over the next few weeks we then contacted all of our longer term bookings and most were happy to swap to another sanctuary which was great. But my heart was still heavy that women had made such an amazing self-empowering choice to come to our beautiful Bliss Sanctuary in Canggu and we had to throw them a curve ball. We want everything to be blissful for our guests from the moment you book and to be the cause of any further stress to anyone, broke my heart.
And my heart just started getting heavier and heavier at the impending closure.
It just didn’t feel right.
We looked at other Villas around Canggu and they were all surrounded by construction! And the thought of going through yet another renovation project after I had put so much into both of our Canggu sanctuaries to get them exactly how we wanted them for an amazing stay for our guests in the specially designed bliss way… was just too much.
I started to get really sad and took a lot of time to think about what we were doing and I contacted the owners of the Canggu land and worked out an agreement.
My heart feels happy and I hope I have made the right decision and all we can do is give people options and be open and honest and do as much as we can.
Most feedback so far from guests is that thankfully they don’t hear it much, after a while when it’s background noise and it’s only every now and then that it’s quite loud. Everyone understands we have no idea what the noise impact will be dependent on the stage of the build and the materials they are building with. We just can’t promise anything and that’s why we’re offering a rather large discount at this time.
And if any of our guests get here and feel it’s not for you we will refund the rest of your stay so there is no angst or feelings of being locked in. Anyone at our Canggu Sanctuary can change your mind at any time where there’s construction and we will bend over backwards to help find somewhere else and still have a blissful time in Bali. We are here for our guests all the way.
Then once all the building has finished it will still be our amazing beautiful sanctuary in an epic location walking distance to cool boutiques and eateries and still close to the beach in the most popular area in Bali. Within our walls it is peaceful and tranquil with a beautiful feel to it and healing energy.
I myself hate construction noise so I wouldn’t choose Canggu for me during this time as I get migraines and would be coming only for R&R not sightseeing or our upgrade packages. So I would go to Ubud or Seminyak in the knowledge that anywhere at anytime in Bali someone could start building something. Just like anywhere in the world.
But for those who are not phased by outside noise and have much more inner peace than me lol, it can be a great opportunity to take advantage of our cheap rates but still with our amazing, unique, personalised experience.
But now I’m quite excited to offer those guests who it suits, more entry level prices and a cheaper holiday as Bali is no longer cheap in comparison to even 5 years ago. We try to keep our prices down anyway and being all inclusive you get a LOT included in your stay. More than any other retreats as far as we know.
And of course we are super exclusive with small numbers which is a business model driven by the heart and soul not solely by the bank balance.
Everything we do and every choice I make regarding Bliss Sanctuary For Women in any of our locations is about our bliss family including our staff and our guests. And I finally feel at peace in the eye of this storm, that we can work through it with so many positives and growth and we are not letting people down.
We always try our absolute hardest at Bliss and our staff are so beautiful with such beautiful hearts and excellent at what they do. We are in Bali Indonesia and so it is important for me that our guests can be blessed to experience the Indonesian people, the Balinese food, the amazing culture and sights. This also includes our amazing Indonesian hostesses and all our staff. They put their heart and souls into Bliss as do I and everyone who works with us. And now this will continue at all 3 sanctuaries including Canggu.
Blessed. Humbled. And mostly Thankful that providing these magical spaces for women is part of my life’s work and my purpose. Thankyou to everyone for believing in us.
And a special thankyou to all of those guests who worked with us at this difficult time. We thankyou for your patience and understanding and I really thankyou so much for being kind. Kindness is such a heart-warming wonderful thing.
Bliss Love, Zoe