"Cut off by winding mountain roads and poor infrastructure, sleepy north Bali has long been a world apart from its hipper, better known southern cousin. But this looks set to change with an investment-friendly ­local government at the helm.

New communications infrastructure, abundant land at affordable prices, new toll roads and proposal for an international airport are currently underway, after being given the green light by Central Government of Indonesia.

Moreover, the area’s natural beauty is unrivalled. The beachfront stretches 150 km from Amed in the east to Menjangan in the west, while rice fields, jungle and mountainsides with stunning sea views is something the south can longer offer.

Tourist numbers may still be lower compared to south Bali, the third-most significant global luxury market, per a recent Knight Frank study, but hotel occupancy tends to be relatively higher in the north due to the limited number of hotels and resorts, the majority of which are typically smaller and pricier than those in Bali’s better known destinations.

“The upcoming major infrastructure changes are definitely set to increase connectivity and access to north Bali, where properties can get a lot more attention from prospective buyers in the near future that it deserves,” says Dominique Gallmann, CEO and founder of Exotiq Property, a resort-focused property agent.

More: Why the term ‘luxury’ is shaking up the Indonesian market

The long promised international airport in Kubutambahan and the three toll roads running to the north and west of Bali are yet to be executed, but the Central Government in Jakarta does appear to be committed to allocating budget for these developments, which are tentatively set to break ground at the beginning of 2016. The roads leading to the area will drastically reduce driving times from the south, a move that is expected to lead to a tourist boom in the area.

“Prices are still at a relatively low level compared to the south,” he says. “You can have a villa on the ocean in north Bali for USD250,000, while in the south, the same villa would cost you more than a million dollars.”

Given the ‘well-kept secret’ reputation of north Bali, visitors and prospective buyers are reminded that it is not the Bali that they might expect.

“Yes, you may have to forego the fancy restaurants the south has to offer but in return, you get a lot of other things to compensate for that – the untamed nature, volcanoes, waterfalls, a huge national park with rain forests, pristine rice fields and simply less people, less cars, less pollution and a more easy going lifestyle,” adds Gallmann.

It’s not just big trophy projects with naming rights being undertaken, either. Along the coast road in north Bali, it’s clear that utility companies and government are serious about improving services to their customers based on the amount of digging and cables being unfurled.

Local hotelier Jochen Hasenbach, owner of Cili Emas Oceanside Resort, which sits on a two-hectare plot in the Tejakula hillside, had planned to pave the access road to their land and install water and power. Before they had had an opportunity to complete the task, however, the local government arrived unannounced and undertook the work as part of its regional master plan to encourage investment.

It is so much easier and faster for companies to operate up here now

Moreover, in Singaraja, the administrative capital of north Bali, the local government is improving both the services and infrastructure at the administrative offices in an attempt to attract foreign investment.

“It is so much easier and faster for companies to operate up here now,” says Hasenbach, “At the new tax office they are also very helpful, they are friendly, they speak English well, and they tell you exactly what you need to pay ­– without any hidden fees.”

He adds that the local government strongly supports foreign investment companies and the handling and granting of permits is very efficient. “We have friends who have land in the south who have been waiting two years for their building permit: we got ours in next to no time,” Hasenbach says. “We even had a personal thank you from the Bupati (the head of the region) for investing here.”

But can North Bali – and more importantly, the environment – handle the influx of tourists and investors?

Agung Prana, founder of both the Taman Sari Resort in Pemuteran and the Jarang Kestari Foundation, a successful organisation set up to bring life back to the coral reefs, certainly thinks so. He warns, however, that “care must be taken from the community level as well as from Central Government.”

The rules for development in Pemuteran are strict and must adhere to the wishes of the community with respect to architecture, philosophy, culture and indeed the environment and must receive the backing of the local community and the head of the village.

To ensure that north Bali develops quality and sustainable tourism along the successful lines of Pemuteran, Prana, who also acts as an advisor to the Bali Tourism Board, has invited more than 300 village heads from across north Bali to a conference to be held later this year. He will lecture on the errors of the south and to try to encourage the leaders to follow a more sustainable form of growth and tourism expansion.

More: Locals boost Greater Bali’s booming property and hotel markets

“North Bali has so much potential for growth and development, but only if it’s handled in a sustainable way, and that means from the grass roots community, right through local and central governments, through to the business owners and investors themselves,” Prana says. “Everyone must share the same vision for the future to avoid the mistakes of the south.”

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