The Man Be­hind the Cur­tain of Royal Am­bar­rukmo Yo­gyakarta

The Cen­tral Bureau of Sta­tis­tics shows Yo­gyakarta as the coun­try's top travel des­ti­na­tion in re­cent years. The num­ber of tourist ar­rivals to the prov­ince grew by more than 130 per­cent in 2016. Here’s how Ian Cameron, Gen­eral Man­ager of Royal Am­bar­rukmo Y

Indonesia Expat - - NEWS - By Leighton Cosse­boom

Ac­cord­ing to Global Busi­ness Guide In­done­sia, de­spite a cool­ing econ­omy in In­done­sia and around the world, South­east Asia's big­gest coun­try con­tin­ues to pull in a grow­ing num­ber of tourists from around the world. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, lo­cals them­selves are trav­el­ling in the ar­chi­pel­ago like never be­fore.

As a re­sult, the de­mand for ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tions is poised to in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly in the com­ing years as more leisure trav­ellers and busi­ness folks come to the coun­try. In­creased trade in­te­gra­tion in ASEAN and more af­ford­able air­fares are a bonus for ho­tels and hos­pi­tal­ity busi­nesses in In­done­sia. This should help the sec­tor over­come chal­lenges of over­sup­ply in some ar­eas, such as Bali.

But after tourists and busi­ness trav­ellers have done what they need to in Jakarta and Bali, the next place they will in­evitably fo­cus on is Yo­gyakarta in Cen­tral Java. This is a bet that Ian Cameron, the Gen­eral Man­ager at Royal Am­bar­rukmo Yo­gyakarta, is will­ing to make.

Royal Am­bar­rukmo is one of the few five-star ho­tels in the city, and Cameron has been over­see­ing the op­er­a­tion for nearly a year and a half. Prior to serv­ing as the gen­eral man­ager for the pre­mium venue in Yo­gyakarta, the Scot­land na­tive spent most of his life trav­el­ling the world in the hos­pi­tal­ity busi­ness.

“I first came to In­done­sia to work some 27 years ago. I spent three years in Bali then at a ho­tel in Le­gian. This was a time when Bali was very dif­fer­ent from now. I have worked in Thai­land, Egypt, Sin­ga­pore, South Korea, last in the Philip­pines be­fore re­turn­ing to Bali for four years and then mov­ing to Yo­gyakarta just over a year ago,” the ex­pat re­called.

Hav­ing worked in ho­tels and served as gen­eral man­ager at a range of top-notch re­sorts in Bali such as Swis­sBel­ho­tel In­ter­na­tional in Pe­catu, Ra­mada Re­sort and Grand As­ton in Nusa Dua and Cen­tra Taum in Seminyak, it seems ev­i­dent that Cameron is a bona fide lifer in In­done­sia’s re­sort hi­er­ar­chy. He re­calls his first en­counter with the hos­pi­tal­ity busi­ness:

“When I was 12 years old I took my first hol­i­day job in a ho­tel, close to where I lived in Scot­land, in the kitchen do­ing the wash­ing up and then as a waiter. I en­joyed the dy­namic of work­ing with oth­ers at the ho­tel and also be­ing a part of cre­at­ing the magic that guests feel, or cer­tainly should feel, when they ex­pe­ri­ence a ho­tel or restau­rant.”

Hav­ing taken to the in­dus­try from a young age like a duck to wa­ter, Cameron at­tended ho­tel school in Ed­in­burgh for four years and even­tu­ally set his sights on Asia.

“Even then I knew I wanted to work in the Far East, I didn’t know why par­tic­u­larly, other than the fact that bet­ter ser­vice was pos­si­ble in ho­tels here,” ex­plained Cameron. “I started then to write let­ters to ho­tels in Asia ap­ply­ing for po­si­tions. Email wasn’t around then so it was old fash­ioned mail by post, and it was nice to get back the re­sponses – even though they were re­jec­tions due to lack of any over­seas ex­pe­ri­ence – on good qual­ity ho­tel let­ter­head from places such as Hong Kong, Sin­ga­pore and oth­ers, then con­sid­ered very ex­otic places to travel to.”

Ac­cord­ing to the gen­eral man­ager, Yo­gyakarta’s ho­tel in­dus­try out­look is an en­cour­ag­ing one. He high­lighted the city’s soon-to-open in­ter­na­tional air­port, adding that it will po­ten­tially ex­pand the mar­ket in new and ex­cit­ing ways.

In April, Pres­i­dent Joko “Jokowi” Wi­dodo ex­pressed his be­lief that Yo­gyakarta’s tourism sec­tor holds great po­ten­tial. The na­tional strat­egy and Yo­gyakarta's eco­nomic pro­gram aim to fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing tourism and the prov­ince’s cre­ative in­dus­try. Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tral Bureau of Sta­tis­tics, Yo­gyakarta was the coun­try's top travel des­ti­na­tion in 2016. The num­ber of tourist ar­rivals to the prov­ince spiked by more than 130 per­cent dur­ing a one-year pe­riod.

In Jan­uary of 2017, the tourism min­istry pre­dicted that by 2020, In­done­sia’s tourism sec­tor will be­come the big­gest rev­enue con­trib­u­tor for the coun­try at large.

With more than 47,000 lo­cal and for­eign tourists ar­riv­ing at the Gu­nung Kidul District in the Spe­cial Re­gion of Yo­gyakarta ( just one of the prov­ince’s sev­eral tourist at­trac­tions) for Easter weekend in April, the min­istry’s prediction doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

The ac­cel­er­ated growth of tourism and busi­ness travel in Yo­gyakarta is plain to see in 2017, as a va­ri­ety of starred ho­tels have re­cently cropped up to com­pete with Royal Am­bar­rukmo, in­clud­ing names like Meliá, Adonara Group and the 150-room Royal Kra­ton. How­ever, as an early mover in the prov­ince’s bud­ding tourism space, Cameron finds him­self at the cen­tre of a unique busi­ness in­ter­sec­tion, one that is brim­ming with op­por­tu­nity.

The gen­eral man­ager humbly added, “In­done­sia is such a vast coun­try with all sorts of dif­fer­ent des­ti­na­tions and I do be­lieve that Yo­gyakarta is a fan­tas­tic hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion in its own right.”

I en­joyed the dy­namic of work­ing with oth­ers at the ho­tel and also be­ing a part of cre­at­ing the magic that guests feel, or cer­tainly should feel, when they ex­pe­ri­ence a ho­tel or restau­rant.

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