Christian Rene Höchtl’s journey in the hospitality stretches over 22 years spanning 3 continent, 9 countries, and 13 cities until he finally arrived in Jakarta to assume his position as the General Manager of Ayana MidPlaza Jakarta. We sat down with him to talk more about his globe-trotting experience, and the hotel brand that he now represents.
Tell us about your Journey that brought you here.
It all started in Vienna, Austria where I was born and raised and lucky enough to receive received training and work with so many interesting people. Until I decided to move out to London when I was 25 to perfect my English. I lived there for 3 years, most of the time working for the Intercontinental group. After that I moved to the US to work in New York City, San Francisco then to Canada for a few years. After that, soon Spain, Croatia, and finally to Asia. First to Szechuan and Guangdong in China, to Bangkok, and finally here in Jakarta. It’s a big journey.
How are you liking it so far in Jakarta?
I always like Asia because it has so many different faces. Indonesia especially, very rich in its cultural, yet so different. Such a large country, such a big population.I have just got here so I haven’t yet explored too much, but I am looking forward of being able to explore other parts of Indonesia.
What’s your first impressions of Jakarta
It is truly a mega metropolitan city that lives up to its nickname, The Big Durian! I have only seen a fraction of it but what it has shown me so far is its interesting extremes. People from different areas if Indonesia, different backgrounds, faces, coming together in this melting pot. And I can tell just by looking around this hotel, infrastructures are being built, businesses, constructions and projects, the many positive aspects of the city’s growth.
What do you think are Ayana’s strengths that you like to highlight?
First and foremost, definitely our fantastic location in Sudirman, in the heart of the Jakarta business district where you can easily go to other areas with ease. Which makes us an excellent choice for business travelers, also for our business facilities. We also have many sizes of meeting facilities as well as fantastic indoor and outdoor venues that can cater both to business and social venues, including weddings.
At the same time we also give our leisure customers opportunities to totally relax with our outdoor swimming pool, Jacuzzi area, tennis and squash court, and even a spa to let you indulge and escape from the big city.
And as we recently re-branded into Ayana that is forming its own Indonesian luxury hotel company, we now have more flexibility to incorporate our other properties and the opportunity to design our services and packages more to what the customers need, and also draw experience for our other properties.
What’s your strategy to stay ahead of the competition?
Being in a competitive environment, it requires not only one particular step to stay ahead. It requires management as well as all staff to continue to look at innovation, and talent development because this will reflect in our guest experience. I believe by always building the strength of our staff, the way we employ, develop, act, and engage with our customers, this will set as apart.
We also continue to strengthen our identity and individuality. As a product, we have also started to upgrade our hotel, starting with the lobby, the ballroom, and we have several projects in line such a our lounge area, a new outlet that will come soon, and of course the guest rooms, meeting rooms. Within this year, we’ll have brand new meeting rooms, and gradually various facilities will gradually come on line.
What are coming up this year for Ayana?
The very important aspect is that we are consolidating our properties: Ayana Jakarta, Ayana Resort Bali, Ayana Rimba Jimbaran and Ayana Komodo Resort in Flores that is scheduled to operate this September which is going to stand out as the leader in the island in terms of facilities and service level. In addition, Ayana Komodo Resort will also have its very own luxury yacht that is set to launch around the same time. We are also developing a loyalty program that will support the development of our facilities. So it is an exciting time for us.
For someone who has been in the business for more than 2 decades. What has changed over the years?
When I started, it was obviously a lot different time. At that time, a hotel company might have 1 or two hotel brands, whereas now you can expect up to 9 different brands under a hotel company. Not so many people had access to luxury hotels, flights were more expensive and much smaller in volume. Today, even millenials have access to 5 star hotels. This forces hotels to be even more innovative because business is most rapidly changing and competitive than ever before. But in the bottom of it all, it still boils down to the service factor. The heart that we put in, the sincerity of how we deal with customers and the skills that we bring to the table.
What excites you the most in your job?
It is exciting because you never know what’s your day going to be like tomorrow. I feel I’m a living a life that many can only dream of! To work in the hotel industry, we have the enormous advantage of being able to live in different places, living completely different lives with different cultures, in one lifetime. I also most enjoy it because we are in ‘people business’ and not making things which can be intense at times, but can be incredibly enriching. It is a never-ending learning experience.
What’s your most surprising experience of Jakarta or Indonesia?
I am positively surprised of the level of politeness in here, level of education, and the level of English proficiency which is extremely good. As well as Jakarta’s development as a modern metropolitan city that offers a lot to its inhabitants.
Thank you for your time and the wonderful chat!
For more information about Ayana hotels, visit www.ayana.com.