Focused and Adaptable
General Manager of The ANVAYA Beach Resort Bali, Sven Walter, has travelled the world in the hospitality industry; we talked to him about his life, work challenges and what he thinks is needed to work in hospitality.
Q: What was it that drew you to work in hospitality? Has it always been your passion?
A: Actually, no, it wasn't a plan and there is no family background in hospitality. In fact, I trained as an electrical technician and intended to work in that field, but my two older brothers had also trained in technical fields and then decided to work as chefs, so I was curious and followed in their paths. My middle brother is still a chef now and owns a small restaurant.
Q: What made you move into hotel management?
A: I had spent 14 years in the kitchen, done additional certification and training and worked up the ranks to executive chef, but I didn't want to do it for another 30 years. So I decided that going into hotel management would be interesting.
Q: Could you tell us about some memorable events you've had in the course of your career?
A: There are so many, but when you start in hospitality it's the gala dinners, the concerts and all the big events when you get the chance to showcase the whole palette of hospitality, from service, to kitchen, venue, decoration; working with tourism ministries and flying in dancers and artists, flying in DJS from Europe, being live on the radio, arranging concerts on the rooftop. There are so many events. It just shows how colourful the industry is and how much you can do in the field.
Q: In your opinion, what's the most important quality for a successful general manager?
A: You know, the GM is only successful when the team is successful. I think everyone has their own way of looking at things, but being engaged with the staff and with the guests and serving as a good example are always good qualities for success, apart from obvious basic skills required for hospitality. Times have changed now and there isn't the same stiff
hierarchy that there used to be, it's more like being part of a circle.
Q: What part of your job do you love the most and why?
A: Whatever you do, you receive immediate feedback, both good and bad. If we all do a good job on a daily basis and see guests leaving happy, there is no better reward.
Q: How do you think Indonesia's hospitality industry compares to other places you've worked?
A: In many ways, Indonesia still has an advantage with its naturally hospitable people. I also think the country as a destination is underrated.
It is quite difficult to promote as it's so geographically fragmented and there is so much variety, but it really does deserve much more exposure. Q: What is the toughest challenge you've faced in your career?
A: There have been many challenges through my career. But perhaps the hardest was when I first started travelling abroad. I found it very hard to adapt to other cultures that were so foreign to my own. I'm Swiss, so being prompt, for example, has always been more important to me than to many other people. It took me a while to learn to find different ways to tackle things, while still reaching the same goal. It was a big learning curve, but I think I have achieved an adaptable mindset now. However, if you're not willing to change, you will always struggle. Everything else is manageable, really. I consider it a privilege to have had so many experiences that have really shaped and changed me.
Q: In what ways do you think hospitality is changing these days? A: The customers are changing; they are younger, have high expectations and are more demanding. They have different aspirations from the older generation and this has rocked the whole construct of the hospitality business as it has existed for the last 150 years. We have to accept these changes and deal with them.
Technology has also changed our business a lot. Preliminary travel research is already done on mobile devices, before people even begin to look in detail. Many people want to stay in a five-star hotel, but they don't want to pay the higher cost of hotel food and drink, so now hotels have only two or three smaller food outlets. Today's travellers are looking for a relaxed environment and high-quality accommodation.
It's very hard for hotels to change quickly, they cost a lot of money to build and the
hospitality industry is labour intensive with quite low margins, so these rapid changes can be difficult for the industry. However, I still believe that quality will always find its customers.
Q: Do you have any tips for someone thinking of joining the hospitality industry?
A: You need to have fun and be passionate about what you do. Be focused and don't get easily distracted; follow your dream without giving up too easily. It's hard work, the hours can be long, but it's fun and, at the end of every day, we always have a story to tell, and you can travel if you choose. The industry has so many opportunities with different paths and you don't have to remain in one area the whole of your life. theanvayabali.com