Andrew den Oudsten: The Travelling Hotelier

Q: Why did you choose to work in hospitality? How did you become the general manager of Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta? 

A: I grew up in Cairns, which is famous for its hospitality, so I guess it’s something I’ve always loved. I’ve always been fascinated by hotels and what goes on behind the scenes. I actually didn’t go to hotel school like most people in this industry. I studied for a bachelor of applied science at the University of Queensland and I taught early in my youth. I started out in hospitality as a bellboy in a resort at Port Douglas carrying bags, opening doors and worked my way up from there.

Q: Tell us about an interesting problem you’ve had in your professional life and how you solved it.

A: That’s a hard question, because there are so many. I’ll tell you about the most recent one. While I was in Shangri-La Resort at Kota Kinabalu, the water mains burst and our hotel’s supply of water was cut off. We had to move half of our guests to our sister resort in Kota Kinabalu. We kept one restaurant open while we closed the others to conserve water. Luckily, I had a great team and we dealt with the situation quickly. I’d like to think that we handled the situation well and our guests appreciated it.

Q: Which countries have your career taken you to? Which is your favourite?

A: I’ve worked in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Shanghai, Dubai, Vancouver, Philippines and Jakarta. It’s really hard to pick a favourite because they are all memorable in their own ways. I love to travel and I always make it a point to explore whenever I go to a new city. I love meeting the locals, eating with them and checking out the local attractions. Each destination is unique.

Q: How do you think Indonesia’s hospitality industry compares to other places you’ve worked?

A: Since I came to Jakarta, one thing I’ve noticed is the amazing warmth and sincerity of the Indonesian people. At Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta, we want to make our guests feel welcome, like we are welcoming them into our own home. Our guests keep coming back because they are comfortable here, and we have our amazing staff to thank for that.

Q: What parts of your job do you love?

A: There is a never a dull moment in this job; you are always dealing with new things every day. It’s definitely challenging, but it’s exciting. The travelling is also a nice perk for me. I love going to new countries, meeting different people and learning about their culture and food.

Q: Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

A: From a professional perspective, I have a mentor I met early in my career in hospitality. He’s a huge influence on how I work and how I’ve modelled my career. I think it’s important in this industry to have a strong mentor whose ideals are similar to your own, who can advise you and help you grow as an hotelier.

Q: Any exciting plans we can look forward to in 2017?

A: We did major renovations over the past two years. We opened JIA restaurant and Lotus function space and renovated the guest rooms. Basically I’ve inherited a fantastic product and I’m glad I don’t have to deal with the headaches of renovations! This year, we are focusing on the basics and our customers. We’re always working to provide better service for our guests and improve their stay experience at Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta.

Q: What are your favourite activities outside of work?

A: Anytime I get outside work is family time. We love travelling as a family and we do a lot of outdoor activities. Since I’ve arrived in Jakarta we’ve had the good fortune to take in the local sights. We’ve joined in the car-free day in Jakarta, took a car trip up to Bogor and visited Borobudur! We have so many places to explore in Indonesia, it’s a beautiful country.

Q: What advice would you give people thinking of joining the hospitality industry?

A: If you are a people person, this is a great industry for you. However, keep in mind that it is demanding and requires lots of sacrifices. You don’t need to study to work in a hotel and you can always pick up the skills if you’re eager to learn, but if you want to succeed in this industry, you need the right attitude and dedication.