In Indonesia, the Accor chain of hotels--the largest in the Asia-Pacific, is said to be dominant, especially for the mid-scale level. In the next two years, they plan to add 100 hotels. In October, in time for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference, Accor plans to open the Sofitel Nusa Dua. This is the first time they will bring a six-star hotel to Indonesia.
The France-based company plans to recruit more than 10,000 employees to manage its hotels, most of them Indonesians. Gerard Guillouet, 57, vice-president of Accor Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore personally oversees this expansion.
Guillouet joined Accor in 1986 and has led Accor businesses in Indonesia for the past nine years, before taking on his current job. He said that one of Indonesia's strengths supporting the hotel industry is the national character of people's 'willingness to serve'. "Indonesia has a real sense of service and guests can really feel it," he said.
Guillouet gave Tempo reporters Sadika Hamid, Hermien Y. Kleden and Seulki Lee, a special interview last week.
Below is part of the interview. The complete version can be found in Tempo English Weekly's 1402th edition, available on print.
A few months ago, you told President Yudhoyono about your plan to build 100 more hotels in Indonesia. That's quite a big investment.
The pace of growth in Indonesia is probably the biggest next to China's. Even China growth has slowed down, while Indonesia still sustains the same level of growth, about six percent. Indonesia's potential is huge. Compared to other part of Asia, there is still a minimal amount of rooms and hotels, while in Malaysia and Thailand, the market is already mature.
Which segment of the market will be your priorities?
We have a good balance between the economy, mid-scale and up-scale hotels. I think all the segments are growing. But in terms of volume, the biggest share of the market is the economy hotels. As many as 50 percent of the development will be in this segment.
Where will the hotels be located?
We already have a good presence in Sumatra and Java. We are now developing in the eastern part of Indonesia. We are opening a second hotel in Manado, North Sulawesi, and we will also open in Palu, Central Sulawesi. East Indonesia is a real potential for tourism but it will take years (to develop). It's not just a matter of promoting and marketing, but also of infrastructure.
Is the financial crisis affecting the hotel business here?
The economy and the infrastructure continues to grow. Tourists and business people are attracted by Indonesia. People talk about Indonesia as a land of opportunity. The profit we make in the Asia Pacific represent less than 15 percent of Accor worldwide. But in terms of development, more than 50 percent of new hotels are in Asia. Our company has no doubt that the future is in Asia and the fastest economy is here in Indonesia.
What makes Indonesia interesting to the hotel industry?
The political stability helps a lot. The democracy has reached a certain degree of maturity. Compared to certain neighboring countries, the perception that we have from outside is that there is harmony in diversity here. Indonesia has participated in many international conferences so its image has really improved. This can be credited to the government. The common point that Indonesians share is hospitality. The strength of Indonesia is first of all the human resources, their values, the search for harmony. Indonesians have a sense of service and guests can really feel it.
What is your plan for the next five years in Indonesia?
Today we are the leader in Asia-Pacific and in Indonesia, so we have to strengthen this. I also want Accor to give more meaning to what we do. It is not only building hotel rooms but to make people happy. First of all we want our employees to be happy. We have a program we launched 12 years ago and I think we were the pioneers. We planted trees that not only benefit the environment but also the local communities. Our staff can also help under-privileged children. Some of them give English and computer lessons and provide counseling. So it is about having a global philosophy of service. We want to make it part of our DNA, to integrate it in our business. (*)