Harry Suryadharma

Interview with Harry Suryadharma, General Manager of The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Jakarta


Harry Suryadharma has taken on the new role as General Manager of The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Jakarta. Harry has nearly 20 years of solid background and experience in the luxury hotel industry.

Speaking with us on a warm intimate afternoon, he shared his thoughts about the nature of hospitality, his strategies for the hotel, and how the hotel adapts to the current dynamic situation.

Tell us about yourself – what inspired you to work in the hospitality industry?

Back when I was still in school, I was always inspired by hospitality because of the way they handled and interacted with customers. In the past, it was rare to receive true 5-star luxury service. But now, it is the most mandatory thing you have and even the banks can be as friendly as a hotel. From there, I decided to enter hotel school at STP Bandung (NHI). Upon completion, there was an opportunity for me to continue for 2 years in Switzerland to complete my bachelor’s degree.

Can you tell us what you did at the beginning of your professional career?

My first job was in Bali, and it turned out to be tough, the best job I got was in the third month as a daily worker at Padma Resort Legian as a waiter. After less than a month, I decided that was not my world, and came back to Jakarta and I got my first official role at The Park Lane Jakarta as Guest Relations Associate. But somehow I knew I always wanted to be in sales and marketing so I shifted my job in the following years and got many great experiences. I worked at Aryaduta managed by Hyatt Jakarta, The Dharmawangsa, a Rosewood Hotel Jakarta, Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta (Setiabudi), JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta, The Ritz-Carlton Jakarta, Mega Kuningan, Hotel Mulia Senayan Jakarta, and the new Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta for pre-opening.

I have finally rejoined Marriott International Indonesia and handled both JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta and The Ritz-Carlton, Jakarta Mega Kuningan as a Cluster EAM Sales & Marketing in 2017. I completed the mission at the end of 2019 and was transferred to Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta Resort & Spa as General Manager. After two years in Yogyakarta, in early 2022, I was named General Manager here at  The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Jakarta. This marks nearly 15 years with Marriott International Indonesia.

What would you say about your work ethic as General Manager?

The first is transparency. Because I always remember that when I was a staff, I wanted to know what was happening inside. And now during the pandemic, my team will definitely think about what will happen in the future, so as much as possible we must always be transparent from A to Z, so they know the progress and the challenges to be faced for let’s say a month or two months and set the goals. Second, work with integrity. At the end of the day, generally what usually lasts comes with integrity. The last one is to treat people the way you want to be treated.

How is your daily life working and leading The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Jakarta?

Usually, in the morning, I have a quick breakfast and look at the hotel situation. If I talk about the first 2 months I don’t have a usual morning brief. Instead, I prefer to hold sessions with each HOD rotated about once a week according to schedule. Right now, the focus is more on discussions with each department, and then every week there is also a weekly leadership meeting. After that, we hold meetings for customer engagement, revenue, and other internal meetings. In the afternoon around 11:30, I genuinely check the operations for arrivals that will come. I do it with the entire operation leaders to discuss how we can give a memorable experience for our guests. I want to slowly transform this hotel into a luxury boutique hotel that comes with an exceptional experience and we have also recently launched a butler service called The Guardian service. That is where the 11:30 meeting is important, which has never existed before.

Tell us more about The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Jakarta specifically the unique points of the hotel?

The first one was already mentioned, we have The Guardian, and then the second is the newly revamped dining experience at 1928. Formerly L’Avenue, 1928  Restaurant showcases a revamped dining concept and menu. We want to reposition the property to become a luxury boutique hotel in the middle of Jakarta. Visitors can expect to be satisfied with the great experience while they’re here.

The hotel’s main building is a colonial time structure, with a strong art deco feel, which we have replicated throughout the property, and forms the property’s DNA. The hotel is designed for someone who looks for intimacy, quiet, and peace, and it focused on the luxury experience. Everything that is available here is small and intimate, the restaurant, bar, and lounge. These are meant for high-caliber customers to create amazing moments and experiences. Our rooms retain the colonial feel but also feel modern and comfortable. Some rooms may be designated deluxe but their layouts can be different with a more unique corner because there are varieties of layouts.

Can you tell us about the newly opened 1928 Restaurant?

Celebrating the colonial history of the hotel building, 1928 Restaurant focuses on colonial, Peranakan, and Indonesian/Pan-Asian cuisine. We wanted a more approachable take on food, hence we focused on the Dutch colonial character of the building. 1928 introduces a fresh, modern take on colonial-era dishes using the best locally sourced ingredients. Our executive chef Ferdian Tobing, has come up with a series of mouthwatering for our diners to try. The menu is designed to evoke memories of the old times but without losing the modern touch. Worth-to-try signature dishes such as Grilled Bone Marrow, Bruine Bonen Soep, Macaroni Schotel, Beef Bitterballen, Pindang Bandeng, Dutch Steak, Klappertaart, and Poffertjes.

In this pandemic situation, how do you and your team adapt the situation to keep the business on track?

First, we have to constantly adapt to change and do that quickly. One very big change I see happening is on the digital front. The past two years have seen a huge digital acceleration, something I have not seen throughout my entire career. Something that I would say was almost impossible to even think of before the pandemic, and now it has just come. The entire hotel industry from 5-star luxury, to even mid-scale hotels, are all adapting. Technology is driving both guest experiences as well as the marketing point of view. The market behavior has changed big time, the expectation is now different. The previous preference might not work anymore after the pandemic. We are rebuilding a new algorithm for luxury customer behavior.

The domestic market has become one of our main targets and luckily we have maintained relevant and in contact with the domestic markets around us. In the past, the domestic market was not the main target for luxury hotels, so the marketing plans are now changing. In fact, we now have a website in Bahasa Indonesia. This very rarely happened for hotels under Marriott International. We are also working on partnerships with many marketplace platforms, which we didn’t do before, but now these are all part of our game plan.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in the hotel industry nowadays?

One of the biggest challenges is consistency because change is happening too fast, so consistency and adaptability are needed with extraordinarily evolving technology. Because the customer’s mindset is different and we still haven’t seen if this pandemic will end quickly. There are still thoughts of traveling here and there with worrying minds. And then, the implementation from the technology side. It requires some investment but the hotel’s financial condition is not good, so it is a bit contradictory. The trick is to focus a lot on digital and still have to push, and I believe this is actually an opportunity for us to spend to reach out.

For nearly 20 years, you have worked in the hospitality industry, what makes you enjoy working in the industry?

I think one of them is we never really have a flat day, there’s always something different. You rarely know what to expect. But the best part is meeting amazing people from different backgrounds. Sharing moments with them, in the end, I am very happy when I see customers satisfied with our service. Being in a luxury brand, the focus is not only on providing the product but also the most important thing is delivering an exceptional experience.

How do you balance your professional and personal life?

Of course, priorities. Stick with priorities. They will really help with day-to-day tasks.

What do you like to do during your free time? Any hobbies?

I have 3 beautiful daughters, aged 7, 5, and 2, so they keep me busy at home. But other than that I love traveling, doing some number of picnics to different places, sometimes unknown places. I love both mountains and beaches, but now with my family, the mountain seems to be more difficult because of my small children. So now it’s more to the beach. Luckily 2 years ago when I was in Yogyakarta we could do road trips. I visited Malang, Semarang, and several other cities, and each city is beautiful.

How do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

I still see being at Marriott International, I want to grow to continue with Marriott International. 15 years and still counting. In the next 10 years, there will be around 150+ hotels in Indonesia, now there are still around 60 hotels. I hope I can still be in Marriott International and could be a VP one day. If it is possible to go outside of Indonesia then I’ll go, the main thing is that the opportunity will be more open.

Finally, what is your hope for the current condition of the tourism and hospitality industry?

I really believe the tourism sector will be the first foreign exchange contributor. When it happens amazing things will also happen in this industry, not only hotels but all tourism sectors will advance like Singapore, Thailand, and Turkey to name a few. We can see tourism industry will be well-managed and well-structured. Especially people who work in the hospitality industry like hoteliers will feel proud to work in hospitality. I think we are still on the right track, slowly leading to it. I am very optimistic about the future of tourism in Indonesia.