NOW! Jakarta speaks to Kanit Sangmookda, the hotel’s General Manager about his time at the property and the changes planned for the year.
You’ve been in the position for a couple of years now. What have you most enjoyed about your time here so far?
I love Indonesian hospitality. They are friendly, accommodating. One thing we consider is the service—it comes from the heart.
I’m getting to know Indonesian culture more. I am originally from Thailand and once thought the Indonesian culture was similar to Thai culture but I realised it is not really. There are some similarities in terms of how we think and respect each other and how treat each other. That’s what we have in common.
My hometown is Bangkok, so we are two cities known for traffic jams. So I didn’t have to adjust that much to this environment. ‘Getting used to it’ is the closest phrase but I tend not to think about it or else I’ll be frustrated everyday. I use my time in traffic to work, read, catch up on emails, or talk to family.
What are some of the hotel’s latest developments that you can share with us?
We’re in the process of renovating our rooms. The layout and decorations are being renovated. Also this year we’re giving our lobby lounge a face lift. We are going to evolve this space to comply with the Le Meridien concept. In the company we call it the hub, where people gather to socialise. So the space will open up to that. There will be communal tables and lounge chairs. We expect to start after Ramadan. There will be more space at the bar as well.
In other news, Marriott has acquired Starwood and we’re in the second phase of integration. Marriott International will be forming a single loyalty programme in the second half of the year, combining rewards from the three formerly separate programmes—Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest— into one structure beginning in August. This programme will adopt a new name early next year. Mariott is also working toward one website where all brand names will appear. In the later part of the year we will all be using the same format of the website. So customers will be able to use the same channel across the group. This will be available by August.
Operating in central Jakarta makes things convenient for guests, but how do you stay competitive with the many chain hotels in the area? What do you offer Jakartans to encourage local residents to visit the hotel?
Despite the traffic, we have a lot of guests. They stop by for lunch or dinner or office meetings. From our side we are pushing our strong point about staff service. We have a lot of repeat guests. 95 per cent of our guests are SPG [Starwood Preferred Guest] members that belong to the loyalty programmes. We prob also have the most platinum guests of the group. Among our restaurants too, there are a lot of repeat guests. They say they feel like it’s home. Staff remember their names and their dining preferences, and they feel like family. So we want to continue our legacy. We also have the dining programme Club Marriott so they can use discounts in the dining outlets, the spa and discounts in other Marriott too. Dining is important and everything has to be ‘instagrammable’. So we leverage that. We want Jakarta residents to visit the hotel as a dining destination too, so we make sure we have the best local food. We often have food promotions to encourage local visitors and they have been successful. We have our own amenities such as our chocolate production. We use key ingredients and flavours that represent different locations. We try to incorporate our brand culture into Indonesian culture
What can we look forward to this month?
This year, for Ramadan, we are going above and beyond. We want to be an iftar destination and we want customers to experience three different options first is pop up restaurant in the style of a Batavia night market. We will bring in some local food from Batavia culture. Then we have La Brasserie which is the international buffet with signature Ramadan items. We also have our Lebanese restaurant Al-Nafoura which offers the middle eastern experience. So customers can visit at least once a week and experience a different menu.