A seasoned hotelier with more than 19 years of experience in hospitality, Harry Suryadharma has been through it all, including the attacks on JW Marriott Jakarta. A recipient of Director of Sales & Marketing of The Year for The Ritz-Carlton Asia Pacific in 2014-2015, the Indonesian-born leader is now helming the iconic Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa.
Q: How did you get into the hospitality industry? Has it always been your passion?
A: It all started back when I was a senior in high school. I have always been fascinated with everything related to travel, especially hospitality. I studied at the National Bandung Hotel & Tourism Institute, then got my Bachelor degree from the International Hotel Management Institute in Switzerland. My greatest satisfaction at work is when I can fulfil the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests, who become loyal and keep coming back to our hotel.
Q: Throughout your career, what’s the biggest challenge you’ve come across and how did you overcome it?
A: The biggest challenge was back in 2009 when I was working for JW Marriott Jakarta. It was the second time that the hotel was attacked by terrorists, making it the first hotel in the world to be struck twice. It was a very tough time to rebuild the trust of our guests and clients. Having persistence, being positive and consistent were the keys to tackling this. Slowly but surely, we were able to rebuild trust and drive occupancy back up. In fact, I decided to stay at the hotel just to make sure that I greeted every guest for almost a year after the reopening, just to give assurance that the hotel was safe. All our actions led to a great result with JW Marrriott Jakarta still maintaining its position as a leading hotel in the market.
Q: You’ve spent many years working in big metropolitan cities, including Jakarta, before moving to Yogyakarta, a quieter part of Indonesia. Is there a difference in terms of hospitality?
A: In Yogyakarta, the people are genuinely very warm and life is more leisurely. Obviously the city is known as a holiday destination, famous for its culture, nature, cuisine and heritage, including temples, and now even beaches. In Jakarta, just like any big metropolitan city, the people and the guests are more dynamic and the pace of business is very fast, but overall I enjoy working in both equally.
Q: Now that you’re with Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa, what goals and/or future plans do you have for the hotel?
A: This hotel has been around since 1997 and was one of the only five-star luxury properties at that time. Nowadays, Yogyakarta is filled with many newer and more modern hotels. So, the goal is to bring the hotel back to its original Sheraton roots, the place where community gathers. We have renovated guest rooms, the lobby area and select dining outlets to make them more comfortable. We are also focusing on other aspects of the property, which include delivery services and associating the culture with our guests.
Q: What are a few of the highlights you would like to share with our readers?
A: First, the hotel sits on a sprawling 5.4 hectares of well-maintained garden. Secondly, there are many great dining options to satisfy the palate of every guest. Thirdly, the rooms are spacious, and each one comes with its own balcony to enjoy the fresh air. Next are the comprehensive MICE venues, that include indoor and outdoor spaces. Lastly, our award-winning Taman Sari Royal Heritage Spa has been voted the best spa in the city.
Q: What have you always enjoyed about the hospitality industry?
A: Providing the finest guest experience, creating guest memories through delivering exceptional personalized services, fulfilling the unexpressed wishes and needs of the guests, meeting and building relationships with people with different backgrounds and characters. These are a few of the reasons why I am in love with my job every day.
Q: What do you think makes a great hotelier?
A: To be a great hotelier, you must be passionate about the work and be a people person. The other thing is to be observant, creative and innovative at all times.
Q: Do you ever lose track of time at work? If so, doing what?
A: I tend to lose track of time when I am in my creative mode. I like to get ideas across immediately and implemented. For example, if I have an idea on how to market a specific food promotion then I will immediately plan on what I have to do and involve the right people to execute it correctly. This always excites me as it presents a challenge, it’s pleasing when that plan becomes a reality and even more pleasing when it results in a success.
Q: In the eyes of your employees, what is your best quality?
A: One might think persistence, because I always want to make sure everything gets done correctly and immediately. The other thing is thinking out of the box, because I am not afraid to get creative and break barriers, as long as it is beneficial for both the guests and the people I work with.
Q: What advice would you give people thinking about hospitality as a career?
A: Travel is a way of life because people need a break from time to time and enjoy new surroundings. Having a career in the travel industry presents a lot of opportunities. Even in these peculiar times, there will always something beneficial.
Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa
Jalan Laksda Adisucipto
Yogyakarta 55282, Indonesia
T: (+62) 274488588