As the general manager of Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta, Andrew Abram brings decades of experience to the ever-evolving hospitality industry. He shares his optimistic outlook with Exquisite Media. By Runi Indrani
E: How do you think the hospitality industry differs nowadays from when you first started?
A: Gosh, I don’t know, it’s very different from when I first started in 1986 when I think I had seven uniforms in my locker and we would have to work everywhere, and it was quite tough. I think it’s still tough in this industry, and you need to have passion, and you need to want to work at hotels because you enjoy it. It changed over the years, of course, technology has helped us to be more efficient, guests’ demands have changed, travellers’ demands have changed, and the amount of people who do travel has increased enormously. The pandemic over the last two years has impacted the travel industry incredibly, however, full travel will return, and we continue here at Mandarin Oriental to make sure that we understand the specific needs of the guests at all times. That means external, and internal guests, and our staff. Their needs have changed as well over the last 30 years.
E: How does the hospitality scene in Indonesia differ from the rest of the world?
A: I think in Indonesia we’re blessed. We’re so lucky because we work with people who deliver the best hospitality anywhere in the world, and it’s from the heart. Indonesian culture offers a wonderful way to immerse yourself as a hotelier and GM here in Jakarta. We have the opportunity to work with many spectacular colleagues who are delivering excellent services to our guests. Now, to be fair, you can get excellent service anywhere in the world, and I had the opportunity to work in a number of different countries. So really, I’ve been very fortunate to work in wonderful places, and more importantly to work with wonderful people. But Indonesia, I love it.
E: What do you think is the key to success in being a leader?
A: Communication and listening. We are given two ears, so use them, listen to the people, listen to your customers. Remember that you are who you are, so be yourself. A sense of humour is also very important. Transparency in how you communicate, and transparency in how you manage your teams and support your teams. How do you make your people feel safe so that they can deliver great service? How do you make people feel safe if they make a mistake? It’s not a crime, it’s a learning process. I think this is very important. When I arrived here in 2004, I had a workforce of over 850 people and these were colleagues who were employed here when the hotel opened in 1978. In 2007, we had to close the hotel and terminate that workforce, which is an extremely sensitive and difficult process to go through. When we relaunched the hotel in 2009, we had 258 colleagues, so it was a huge reduction. What this means of course is that the level of education has increased dramatically, work efficiencies are better implemented and better set into the way we do business to make us more efficient. But also, at the same time, we made sure that we were not compromising our level of service to customers here at Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta.
E: As one of the city’s iconic landmarks, how do you keep Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta relevant and evolving with time?
A: The hotel has been here since 1978, and we are very proud to have been here, proud to say that we hope to be here for many years to come. And I think at the end of the day, as a business, you have to evolve, you have to understand the needs of your customers. Partnerships with our supporting companies in Jakarta and further fields are incredibly important to build trust in your business relationships so that you have that support. Seek synergies with your customers so it’s a win-win. To stay relevant is critical, relevant to the needs of your guests and your colleagues. If you’re not relevant, people forget you. We will continue to adapt, but we will continue to stay true to our own brand identity, our pillars, and our guiding principles. And that’s what makes Mandarin Oriental Group, we believe, very special.
E: How do you see the future of Indonesia’s hospitality industry?
A: I think there’s a tremendeous opportunity for Indonesia, it is a spectacular country. Of course, as you know, there are strategies in place to develop more international tourism for Indonesia. Bali is the shop window and what an incredible island that is, and Lombok. But I won’t list all the sites. And I think that’s where the opportunity lies, and that coupled with Indonesian hospitality, the people of Indonesia and the ability to make guests feel welcome, and make them want to come back and stay in Indonesia, I think the journey ahead is incredibly exciting and I look forward to being a part of that journey.
E: Can you share upcoming projects from Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta to look forward to?
A: We will be doing various initiatives with partners over the next few months of this year, 2022, which I think are going to excite the local market. There will be partnerships with companies like Locavore out of Bali, visiting chefs from within the Mandarin Oriental hotel group, and our various promotions. In addition to that, we renovated our meeting facilities back in 2020, so we are delighted that the customers are able to come in and start using those facilities, for weddings and meetings. And we will be doing further work on renovating our lobby area. Yes, exciting! We’re really looking forward to an incredible next year and thereafter. So, we will keep our customers updated on all our initiatives as we move forward.