Experienced in the hotel industry for 15 years, Julien LUTGEN is France / Italy, grew up in Switzerland and is already an expert in luxury and upscale brands of various hospitality groups. Having an education background from ‘The Basel School of Business’ and EHL – Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland, he bagged a great experience and outstanding portfolios from the hotels he worked in around the world in various destinations such as the Maldives, Thailand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkmenistan, France to name a few.

He is an ambitious and driven man, who knows what to do especially in this challenging time. Currently the General Manager of two different hotel units in Jakarta, his vision and mission are appealing to follow.  We had a chance to have a one-on-one interview with Julien Lutgen as he gives a very insightful answers to the most common and daring questions.

Two different hotels and concepts, so how is your daily life working and leading HARRIS and POP! Hotel Kelapa Gading, Jakarta?

The beauty of working in the hospitality industry is that the unexpected is always around the next corner, so no day is the same and your daily routine varies depending on the needs of the business.

I ensure daily that the immediate needs are covered, that the right actions and decisions are taken so that we stay the most efficient and are able to grab as much business as we possibly can. Furthermore, I have a look at the evolution of our middle and long term projects to ensure that we stay on track and adapt accordingly to keep the targets set. I am daily looking at both properties with one main goal, tomorrow we will be a step further to our goal.

Tell us more HARRIS and Pop Hotel Kelapa Gading specifically the unique points of the both hotels?

First I would highlight the location of both properties. We are part of what I call the ‘North Jakarta Shopping Triangle’, directly connected to the Summarecon Mall Kelapa Gading, a short drive to the M.O.I. – Mall of Indonesia and the Mall Artha Gading making it an ideal place for staycations & entertainment. On the other hand, if you look at it from a business point of view the Harris & Pop are in the heart of the Kelapa Gading business district close to the Tanjung Priok Harbor, the JIEXPO, next to the LRT and with ideal access to the TOL’s.

Looking at the properties, for the HARRIS Hotel & Conventions Kelapa Gading the renovation of the hotel in 2020 absolutely marked us up and gives us a significant advantage in the market. In addition, we were able to add & modify our outside spaces which was very well perceived by our internal and external guests especially during the current situation.

For the Pop Hotel Kelapa Gading, the renovation and enlarging of the lobby area ‘The Hangout’ which we completed by the end 2021 and the creation of a Grab & Go and outside terrace revitalized the public spacing and the guest experience significantly as it became the ideal place to work and chill.  Furthermore, we are currently working on a refreshment process of the breakfast area to be ready once we will reopen the buffet area.

When you talked about the new product, what kind of new product that HARRIS Hotel & Conventions Kelapa Gading Jakarta offers?

The Harris Hotel & Convention Kelapa Gading underwent a full renovation in 2020. We are talking about all 307 rooms, 2000m2 of meeting facilities including our 11 meeting & ball rooms as well as our lobby and all other public spaces in the hotel. From a guest perspective this means a total revamped experience in terms of design, style and stay experience. Looking at it from a business point of view, we have the chance to have a completely renovated product versus our competitors which is with no doubt a strong advantage in this current market condition.

What do you perceive about this whole pandemic situation affecting the hotel business?

The hotel business like any other business went to drastic changes and adaptation which most serenely will not be all revoked once the pandemic situations will flatten down towards an endemic. It was a strong hit for the entire industry but I believe it made the industry evolve much faster as there was the need to adapt and to challenge any conventional way of handling and running hotels.

How to adapt the situation to keep the business on track?

You have to put in at least twice as much of an effort to get half of the business you potentially were grabbing before the current situation. So that means you need to adapt nonstop and be very reactive depending on the evolutions of the conditions, looking at unconventional ways, keep pushing & exploring new markets so that you can create as many potential opportunities. Adaptability and reactivity are more than ever key in the current condition to keep your loyal business and to grab any new one.

What are positive things that you got during the pandemic?

We managed to implement a real combo mindset between both properties which led to numerous financial and operational optimizations which we will keep up even once business will come back towards a certain normality. For the team it was obviously a difficult time as business was slow, but the pandemic led also to a stronger bond within all players as we all needed to adapt and multitask to be able to keep the business afloat.

Can you tell us how does working in the hotel industry differ in Indonesia compared to other countries you had worked in before?

From my perspective, this needs to be broken down into 2 main factors. Firstly, the external ones such as market situations & conditions, geographical location of the property and any political & economical aspects. From my experience, in the 9 different countries I had the chance to work so far, including Indonesia, those external factors will strongly determine the way I will approach any hotel internal ones. The main operating mode of a hotel does not warri that much from location to location, but it’s more the individual needs each property has in terms of product and service. My role is to adapt to both external & internal factors to make them work together so that I can get the best possible result to push things forward.

How do you balance your professional and personal life?

I’m lucky as the work / life balance settled in very naturally for me and my family. They know that not all the days are the same so we all adapt around it.

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

Being originally from Italy Family and Food are very important to me. I like to cook and to experiment in the kitchen, I love music, I enjoy exploring and getting lost in the city and the surroundings. To stay fit I try to swim on a regular basis and do some workouts.

You have traveled around the world, where is your favorite place so far and why?

I’m not telling you this to charm you, but for me it is Indonesia. It’s the only place where I worked and where I come back on a regular basis for many years. I love the food & the people, the nature, the cultural diversity, it became my home away from home.

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

I am a born optimist, so more than a hope, it’s for me a certainty that we are step by step coming back to a steady business flow with in the industry.  We are all carving to go back to a kind of normality, on a professional as well as on a personal level. Same as for other industries there will be some changes versus pre pandemic business patterns but if we look at the evolutions of the past months we are more than ever seeing the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter and brighter.