IN­SPI­RA­TION

With a ca­reer span­ning over 30 years in hos­pi­tal­ity across var­i­ous brands and coun­tries and sev­eral stints in In­done­sia, Asia Dreams talks to James Costa about his ex­pe­ri­ences.

Asia Dreams - - CONTENTS -

Our in­spi­ra­tional fig­ures this time are gen­eral man­agers James Costa from Ho­tel Borobudur Jakarta and Hans Jo­erg Meier from Le­gian Ho­tel Man­age­ment.

Q: What made you choose hos­pi­tal­ity for your ca­reer?

A: I left the United States in 1973 when I was drafted into the mil­i­tary and was sta­tioned in Ja­pan, where I learned to speak the lan­guage. When I left the mil­i­tary, I was of­fered a job at Prince Ho­tels in Tokyo, where I spent a year be­fore re­turn­ing to the US to fin­ish col­lege. As soon as I grad­u­ated, I went straight back there. Over the years, I've had prob­a­bly ev­ery po­si­tion pos­si­ble in a ho­tel. My first gen­eral man­ager post was in Guam.

I re­ally love be­ing around peo­ple and, at its roots, hos­pi­tal­ity is still a peo­ple busi­ness. The suc­cess­ful ho­tels, at any level, are the ones whose man­agers are min­gling with the guests and lis­ten­ing to what they want. Q: You worked in Mon­tene­gro for six years; what made you choose to go there? A: I was liv­ing in the States and heard about this job, so I flew to Frank­furt for an in­ter­view and de­cided on the spot to take up the of­fer. Un­for­tu­nately, my ge­og­ra­phy wasn't very good and I thought I was head­ing to Monte Carlo! I was quite shocked when I ar­rived and found an old ho­tel from the Tito era that was un­der re­con­struc­tion, not the glit­ter­ing lux­ury of south­ern France. But in fact, my job was to open a moun­tain re­sort that had had huge in­vest­ment and was ab­so­lutely stun­ning. My wife still laughs about that mis­take even to­day.

Q: What are some of the high­lights of your ca­reer?

A: I think I've trav­elled more than most gen­eral man­agers and had a great mix of brands dur­ing my ca­reer. You meet so many in­ter­est­ing peo­ple and ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent cul­tures. I've also done a lot of ho­tel open­ings, which are very chal­leng­ing but re­ally re­ward­ing.

Q: You’ve worked in Manado, Surabaya, Bali and Jakarta; what keeps you com­ing back to In­done­sia?

A: It's the peo­ple, In­done­sians are the warmest, kind­est peo­ple in Asia.

Q: In Surabaya, you were in­volved with the Ho­tel Ma­japahit get­ting a UN­ESCO World Her­itage Award; tell me about that ex­pe­ri­ence.

A: I ac­tu­ally ini­ti­ated the ap­pli­ca­tion. I re­alised that the first time the In­done­sian flag was raised was in Ho­tel Ma­japahit. It was built by the Sarkie broth­ers, who built Raf­fles, 104 years

ago and has been a sig­nif­i­cant player in In­done­sia's his­tory. The owner has done an amaz­ing job of main­tain­ing the orig­i­nal struc­ture, even re­tain­ing the orig­i­nal tiles, and there is plenty of pho­to­graphic ev­i­dence show­ing the var­i­ous eras at the ho­tel. That ho­tel still holds a re­ally spe­cial place for me.

Q: You’ve hosted heads of state, in­clud­ing In­done­sia’s pres­i­dent three times; what sort of chal­lenges do these vis­its present?

A: Yes, I hosted for­mer pres­i­dent Susilo Bam­bang Yud­hoy­ono in Manado twice and I hosted other heads of state and prob­a­bly ev­ery am­bas­sador when I was at Ho­tel Ma­japahit. Here at Ho­tel Borobudur, we have nu­mer­ous am­bas­sadors and min­is­ters in the ho­tel ev­ery day. Be­hind the scenes, our se­cu­rity is very strong to en­sure their safety, but un­less it's the pres­i­dent, whose se­cu­rity team have their own de­mands, we don't re­ally do any­thing spe­cial.

Q: In China, you were awarded Best For­eign Gen­eral Man­ager. How did that come about?

A: Yes, three times! I was run­ning ser­viced apart­ments where the renters were gen­er­ally CEOS and other high­rank­ing busi­ness peo­ple who were liv­ing there for a full year. It was com­pletely dif­fer­ent from run­ning a ho­tel, we just made sure there were plenty of ac­tiv­i­ties for the fam­i­lies and en­sured ev­ery­thing ran smoothly. I re­ally have no idea what was in­volved in the de­ci­sion process for the award. Q: What are your plans for Ho­tel Borobudur Jakarta?

A: The chal­lenge is keep­ing our iconic sta­tus but stay­ing rel­e­vant. We have good oc­cu­pancy now, but we need to be think­ing about what kind of cus­tomers will be com­ing through the doors in the com­ing years. We're look­ing at health­ier gourmet choices, en­ter­tain­ment op­tions, ways to cre­ate a deep im­pres­sion and cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. Our unique sell­ing point is our 23 acres of trop­i­cal gar­den; we have a new spa, ex­ten­sive sports fa­cil­i­ties, from ten­nis and bad­minton courts to an Olympic­sized swim­ming pool and a chil­dren's play­ground. There is nowhere else like this in Jakarta. hotel­borobudur.com

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