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.

Asia Dreams - - INSPIRATION -

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. thean­vaya­

Sven Wal­ter

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