Parador Hotels & Resort has properties across Indonesia, ranging from one to four stars, to offer you a memorable and comfortable experience during your stay. Behind it, Simon Venison is bringing his experience and vision to lead the team as the CEO of Parador Hotels & Resort. We are very happy when we get a chance to meet the humble man and talk about his passion.
Tell us a little bit about your journey before joining Parador Hotel
It’s a very long journey. My father was working in a hotel, so I started working in hotels almost straight after school despite my mother and father disapproval. I started in South Africa and then went to Europe, then I worked in New York, and then to Dubai. So now I have worked in five continents I think.
How did you get Interested in the hospitality industry?
It’s the sense of satisfaction after you really take after the guest well and you get the compliment from the guest. And I think it is an exciting industry because it’s a changing industry. It’s always interesting to find new angles and new things to do in hospitality, particularly in food and beverages. Where food and beverages were kind of left behind twenty years ago, it’s now really is the shop front of the hotel. And so I think it’s partly that every day is different and that satisfaction of meeting people from all over the world and being able to look after them.
How did it all start?
My hobby and passion is photography, and as a kid, I used to develop my own picture in black and white. When I left school in South Africa I was going to go to the college in the UK but I got a six-month gap. And so my father got me a job as a photographer in a hotel. And so I was taking pictures at a resort hotel. I was taking pictures during the day, working with the PR department and then developing them in the bathroom at night and then selling them to the guests. As the month wore on, I started doing more hotel work and less photography. And then my family moved to the UK and anyway I ended up in a hotel school and here I am thirty years later.
What’s your vision for Parador?
Parador has a great foundation and we have several different brands, one of each star level. We are currently operating in the one to four stars’ space and so it gives us a great ability to enlarge the company throughout, initially across Indonesia, before going international. At the moment we are trying to polish what we have, we try to improve what we do at all levels. We are looking at our branding and will improve on that as well. You know, I’m joining the company in a very exciting time when we are looking forward to expand but we realized we have to get what we do right before we can have a massive expansion. We have four new hotels currently in a pipeline ready to grow next year.
What is your leadership style?
I always think that you need to get the team to buy-in to what you want to achieve and therefore historically I have always been much more democratic. If the idea comes from the team you will get more motivation. Having said that, as you get into more senior roles, in order to get things done, you do almost automatically become more autocratic because you can’t keep discussing everything in a democratic way. At some point, you have to make a decision and let them know so we can move forward. So my natural style is democratic style and a buy-in, I think you have to lead by example.
How do you manage the hotel?
A lot of our philosophy is about management by walking about. You can’t run a hotel sitting at the office. You have to be out meeting the guests seeing what’s going on, and as much as email makes you sit at the office for too many hours in a day, good hotel keeping is still about going out and looking after the guest. Hotel is a detailed oriented business so you have to see the detail and if you are in the office you won’t see that. So I truly believe you have to get out and about to get the hotel running properly.
Again when you get more senior you get more emails and you get stuck in your office far too much. Before I started with Parador I have visited each property. I actually live in the Atria residence at the moment so that gives the manager here a hard time because I keep making a list of what’s wrong with the property (laugh). I’m sure he much prefers I live somewhere else. And you know ATRIA hotel is just across the road so I can pretty much go there every day. And then I make sure I go to one of the Serpong’s hotel for lunch once a week. So I visit each hotel in the area every week. And then another area once a month, which is a great job because you can get to visit Bali, Malang, and Magelang frequently.
Sounds fun! Have you got a chance to explore other parts of Indonesia?
I went to Borobudur, which is really stunning. I’m looking forward to going to Labuan Bajo to see the Komodo dragon. A long time ago there was an antique wooden of Komodo dragon in a market in Dubai and me and my wife ended up buying it. Little did we know that we will see it soon. We had that komodo dragon for at least 8 to 9 years!
What kind of experience is offered by Parador?
The joy of Parador is that we can offer a variety of experiences. Currently, we have brands from one to four star, so you can have an inexpensive stay clean and comfortable at Starlet hotel but with no frill attached, all way to a trip where you can have swimming pools and restaurants. There are different levels of experience with the different star level as you expected. What we are aiming to do is to keep improving on that. For example, we are currently looking for an f&b director who can inject a little bit more excitement to our food and beverages products. We are also building a grand ballroom in ATRIA Hotel which will give us a capacity of wedding up to 1000 people. So we offer whole different activities and experience in each hotel.
That seems a lot. How do you handle work and life balance?
I think I handle it okay, but my wife thinks I don’t (laugh). My wife said I work too many hours. I think if you really enjoy what you do, then your work-life balance is easier for you as a person, but probably not for your family, that you are kind of always at work. To me whenever I go on holiday or going to visit another city I want to go to the best hotel in that city to get ideas from them. And so my poor wife got dragged, well she does not mind so much, she is going to have a nice meal in the hotels, so they are a nice place to hang out anyway. But it’s always good to see what the competition is doing and what’s new.
So I’m happy with my work life balance, but my family not so much. They say if your job is your hobby you’ll never work another day in your life. I love hotels, I love seeing new hotels. There are always new ideas and brilliant ideas.
From your point of view, what do you think about the hotelier industry in Indonesia?
From what I can see it’s a rapidly growing industry because a little bit like China, India, and Brazil, there is such a rise in the middle class. One of the first things they like to do when they have a bit more money is traveling and experiencing a bit more. And I am amazed at how much Indonesians travel. In India, I didn’t find that the people have traveled as much. Meanwhile, I don’t think I have met anyone in Serpong that has not been to Bali and has not been to other islands in Indonesia, and or Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, etcetera. And so I think that brings rapid opportunity in hotel business, which is why It has been expanding so quickly. And it’s expanding in all levels.