From the very best guest rooms and restaurants to legendary service, Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta continues to attract and retain the very best. Inside Investor speaks to Mark S Bradford, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta and uncovers the secret to a great hotel in a thriving city.
Q: Why would guests choose Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta?
A: First and foremost our location. We have an absolutely prime location in the heart of the business district. We are a mile from the heart of government as well as the major embassies. We have also completely renovated. We are no strangers to Jakarta and Indonesia having been here for 35 years, however in 2009 we invested $60million into our product and now we have one of the largest and newest guest rooms in the city, most of our competitors have much older guest rooms than we do.
We have also been voted number one on Tripadvisor as the best hotel in Jakarta out of around 220 hotels and we also won best luxury hotel by Tripadvisor in 2012 and Business Traveller Asia Pacific voted us best business hotel in Jakarta last year. We are one of the best business hotels in Jakarta right now and our guests keep returning due to this fact.
On a practical note, we offer the fastest internet connection in the city (100 MB) and I wouldn’t be surprised if we reach 300mb next year, additionally our WiFi allows for 6 devices per room. Internet is incredibly important to our guests and we have gone to great pains to ensure that we provide a high-speed internet service to our business travellers. We will also be adding iPod docking stations to each room.
Q: How do you ensure the highest level of service and consistency at Mandarin Oriental?
A: In 2008 we closed the building for 18 months., we built a new team from scratch and invested (and continue to invest) a considerable amount of money behind our staff both in training as well as welfare and salaries. Because of that dynamic we have a very fresh team who are young and motivated. This, combined with the Mandarin Oriental Legendary Service standards that we inculcate, has brought our team to a level where I can safely say we provide the best service in Jakarta, a service that is tailor-made to each guest. 25 per cent of our guests are repeat guests which is huge. Our guests feel that each time they return, they are coming back home, greeted and looked after by people rather than just another corporate hotel.
In today’s world, speed is everything. The hotel is well designed, the check-in process is quick and efficient and before you know it you are in your room. We really drive the speed and efficiency of this so that our guests can get straight up and enjoy their rooms, whether that is a hot bath after a long flight or straight onto our high-speed internet to get on with work.
Q: What is the business-to-leisure split of the hotel?
A: As with the other 5-star hotels in Jakarta we are very much tilted towards corporate travellers – 80-85 per cent is corporate. We would all like to see more leisure travellers, at the moment Jakarta is not a huge leisure destination and I think if we had more infrastructure that would allow people to travel around easier and this would attract more leisure visitors. There is great dining, leisure activities and cultural spots in Jakarta, they are just tricky to get to at the moment due to the transport issues.
If you look at Singapore, for example, the city was always known as a corporate destination, yet they have slowly mutated into much more of a leisure attraction. Hopefully this will happen with Jakarta in the next 10-15 years – this needs to be a long-term goal that is driven by the government itself.
Q: How do you remain competitive with all the new rooms and hotels coming online in your vicinity?
A: The strength of Mandarin Oriental has always been its service – whether you are in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Hong Kong – the reputation and service culture will be there, and we invest heavily in it. People will always be attracted by the sexiest, newest and biggest rooms in town and this is something we will continue to invest in through our 5-year capital expenditure plans. We have another great reputation for innovative food and beverage concepts and we shall live up to this at our property, as well as more investment in our spa offerings when the time comes. So in about 4-5 years we will be, once again, investing in our ‘hardware’ (new rooms and products etc), whilst at the same time maintaining our ‘software’ (service and culture of excellence).
Q: How do you keep things fresh in the short term?
A: We are constantly challenging ourselves and continue to give new experiences to our guests. For instance, this week we are welcoming a Michelin-starred chef from France who is flying in for a week, Jakarta does not have any Michelin-starred chefs in residence and we do this 3 times a year. We have the chef from Mandarin Oriental in Paris coming in August and another 2-star chef in November. The Indonesians are extremely sophisticated, noble customers and at the high-end, they are used to the best and trendiest and accustomed to the highest standards. We keep the highest standards with our Chinese restaurant and our all-day dining restaurant – we will be running a Lebanese promotion followed by an Egyptian promotion and most likely a Moroccan promotion in May after that. We are constantly bringing in new and interesting experiences to the local community.
Q: What has been your own personal experience of Indonesia?
A: Being in the hospitality business, there has to be less than 5 nations on earth who are more suited to this industry, Indonesia is one of them. Having grown up in Switzerland and worked around the world, the Indonesians are one of the most welcoming people I have ever known. I have had the opportunity to travel around the country – there are beautiful areas around Jakarta so it is important to go out and explore.
This country is on the move, it is full of opportunities and you can really feel the energy and dynamism of the young people here. As a businessman you can sense this huge potential and positivity – despite the challenges and hurdles that no doubt exist.