For Rhys Challenger, General Manager of Pullman Jakarta Central Park, any dream can become reality through passion and hard work. A true hotelier at heart, the Kiwi has been in the industry for more than half his lifetime and continues to perfect his leadership to create a happy environment for both his team and his loyal staying guests.
Q: You graduated with a degree in hospitality, what made you decide to choose a career in this industry?
A: Funnily enough, when I first started working in a hotel, I hadn’t even graduated. Back then, I was looking for ways to get some money and had the opportunity to work part-time as a waiter. After a while, I decided to try another position in the banquet division and even had some time behind the bar pouring drinks. I love the lifestyle of being a hotelier, where you get to live in different parts of the world and meet many wonderful people. In 2008, when I was first appointed general manager of a hotel in Fiji, Accor helped me to get a degree in hospitality, and I focused solely on the rooms division and revenue management divisions.
Q: You’ve worked in several countries, which is your favourite and why?
A: Of course, Indonesia! No matter where you are, there will be pros and cons, but at the end of the day, the people and the culture of Indonesia are the two things that have blown me away. Indonesian people are just naturally happy and it shows on the faces of the people that work at this hotel. From the moment you step out of the car, you are greeted with the warmest smiles and a willingness to help you feel at home.
Q: What made you decide to move to Indonesia?
A: I have always wanted to work here. In 2014, I was lucky enough to attend a seminar in Jakarta and had the chance to stay at this hotel. When I arrived, I was so mesmerized by the property that I kept telling myself I would work here someday. When I got the opportunity to be general manager of this property, I was so happy. I truly believe if you want something bad enough, you can make it happen.
Q: This hotel has massive MICE facilities. Are there any challenges that come in managing a property with the capacity for such large events?
A: The main challenge is how to maximise the space. Our ballroom is 3,000sqm and can hold up to 5,000 people. In addition, we also have six other meeting rooms that are popular for corporate events. Working with a facility this big, we operate it as a separate business, where the sales team alone can generate the revenue of a small hotel.
Q: In your opinion, what qualities make a successful hotel general manager?
A: Apart from the experience, you need to have passion. You have to be happy with what you are doing. Being a general manager is not a 9-to-5 job, it’s a position where you really need to be committed 24/7 to the job. You also need to be able to share your experience with the people you work with. My biggest key selling point is my experience and how fulfilling I find it to see others around me grow in their careers.
Q: Your previous role was managing a pre-opening team. Is that something you would like to do again?
A: When I did that, it was like I had achieved my dream. But if you’re asking me whether I would do it again? Maybe, but not anytime soon because I really need the rest. Working for a pre-opening property really takes a lot out of you. I don’t think I had a day off for six months. But the satisfaction factor is really amazing when you see the end result. On my last visit to Singapore, I was so happy to see the building from the street. You get attached to hotels like that because it is like your baby.
Q: What do you think about hospitality in Indonesia?
A: The industry is flourishing in Indonesia. It is easy for the Indonesian people to work in hospitality because they are always happy and give the biggest smiles to everyone. It is my job, as an expatriate, to mentor them so that one day they have the ability to perfectly manage other properties.
Q: What is next for Pullman Jakarta Central Park?
A: In 2020, we are planning to continue upgrading within the hotel. We are going to change and update most features inside the rooms, including the TVs, carpets, bathrooms and more. We need to stay ahead of the game, and to do that, we are going to provide the latest amenities for our guests.
Pullman Jakarta Central Park
Jalan Let. Jen. S. Parman
Jakarta 11470, Indonesia
T: (+62) 2129200088
Asia Dreams February – April 2020