BORN to HOST

Jean-philippe De Haes has been hon­ing his hos­pi­tal­ity skills all over the world with the Hil­ton brand for 12 years, but his wel­com­ing per­son­al­ity was de­vel­oped to per­fec­tion a long time be­fore. Now as the gen­eral man­ager of Hil­ton Gar­den Inn Bali Ngu­rah R

Asia Dreams - - INSPIRATION -

Q: You’ve been in the in­dus­try for quite a long time, how did you know that this is what you wanted to do?

A: When I was lit­tle, we had so many fam­ily par­ties, and I was run­ning around, mak­ing sure ev­ery­body had some food, drinks, and play­ing the host. At about 15, I started work­ing in a restau­rant called A La Vieille Forge in Remi­court, a small vil­lage in Bel­gium where I came from, which was also a func­tion space, so I served for wed­dings and dif­fer­ent kinds of events. What I re­ally en­joyed was, just for one mo­ment, I was part of an­other per­son's life. When I was work­ing for wed­dings for in­stance, we had to start very early and fin­ish very late, but it was re­ward­ing be­cause I felt like a part of their fam­ily, mak­ing sure they had this mem­o­rable mo­ment. I was only serv­ing, noth­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary, but I was do­ing it from my heart. I re­alised I wanted to make peo­ple happy, mak­ing sure they felt good and ate well. I knew from then that I would be in the hos­pi­tal­ity busi­ness. You have to be pas­sion­ate and work a lot of hours, but the smiles of the peo­ple are re­ward­ing.

Q: What would you say are the high­lights of your ca­reer?

A: I have had the chance to play dif­fer­ent roles with Hil­ton, which have been es­sen­tial to build my ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge as I cover many ar­eas. I was the direc­tor of fi­nance for quite a long time, the direc­tor of busi­ness devel­op­ment in France and also the direc­tor of oper­a­tions at the amaz­ing and unique Hil­ton Pat­taya. The brand gave me these op­por­tu­ni­ties and it has al­ways sup­ported me. The other highlight is to have worked in many dif­fer­ent coun­tries, in Europe, in the US and now in Asia. I have to say I don't know how to move away from Asia. I've worked in Thai­land be­fore, and now in Bali, In­done­sia, it's just su­per nice.

Q: Do you have any mem­o­rable mo­ment from your jour­ney in the hos­pi­tal­ity scene that you want to share?

A: When I was work­ing at Hil­ton Stras­bourg in France, I was stay­ing in the ho­tel that night, and they called me at 2AM to in­form me that Lionel Richie was at the re­cep­tion and asked me to help. I thought it was a joke. I put on my shirt and tie – it was a red tie, I re­mem­ber. I came down and Lionel Richie was there. He was with his crew, they had a con­cert

in Ger­many – near the bor­der – and had a tech­ni­cal prob­lem with their jet, so they were look­ing for the clos­est ho­tel and were sure to be wel­comed at any time in a Hil­ton. I was there with the bar­man who was fin­ish­ing his shift, and we had to cook be­cause there was no one else there. We both made some club sand­wiches, French fries, and hot choco­late for them. They were so friendly and re­ally thank­ful.

Q: What’s the big­gest chal­lenge that you’ve ever faced?

A: It was ac­tu­ally here, when we were about to open the ho­tel. I ar­rived ex­actly 51 days be­fore the open­ing, so in a very short time, I had to get to know the ho­tel, what was on­go­ing and what needed to be done. The open­ing it­self was my big­gest chal­lenge – from which I learned so many dif­fer­ent things. All went well as I had the sup­port from the brand, my team and fam­ily.

Q: Bear­ing in mind Hil­ton’s strong iden­tity, do you think it’s dif­fi­cult to bring in new ideas and in­no­va­tions?

A: Yes, it is, but in­no­va­tion is es­sen­tial. We con­tin­u­ally strive to an­tic­i­pate and cater to the evolv­ing needs and pref­er­ences of our guests. At our core, we are a busi­ness of peo­ple serv­ing peo­ple, so our team mem­bers pro­vide ex­cep­tional ex­pe­ri­ences. The thing is, com­peti­tors can copy us, but they can't copy our team mem­bers. So we fo­cus a lot on the cul­ture and the dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties for each of them. We can see so many pos­i­tive com­ments on the ho­tel in so­cial me­dia, es­pe­cially on the help­ful­ness of the staff, which makes me proud of them.

Q: What do you think of the hos­pi­tal­ity trend in Bali?

A: There's a bright fu­ture for Bali. In 2016 Bali had a more than 20 per­cent in­crease in vis­i­tors. And the is­land has so much to of­fer: amaz­ing cul­ture, food and the beach. The trend is pos­i­tive for Bali, I can see it con­tin­u­ing to grow. I hope it will keep its spirit, though. You have to live here in Bali to un­der­stand it, re­ally. There's some­thing here that you can't de­scribe, and I hope it's go­ing to stay that way for­ever.

Q: What ad­vice would you give to new, young hote­liers try­ing to make a break in the in­dus­try?

A: Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key. Also, some­times young peo­ple want to get many re­spon­si­bil­i­ties very fast. Yes, it's good they're am­bi­tious, but they also have to take the time. In my ca­reer it has helped to get some ex­pe­ri­ence first. And speak dif­fer­ent lan­guages. English for sure, but Chi­nese would be a great asset in the fu­ture.

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