“I think there are many things we do that set us apart in catering to families at our hotels but at the core of it is our flexibility and perseverance.
We’re a company that can be trusted, known to be dependable and we do what we say we will do,” remarked John Flood, the President and CEO of Archipelago International.
“In setting up accommodation and facilities to cater for families, we really spent a lot of time analysing what families and in particular, Indonesian families, want to do. For example, they like to be outdoors – but want to be more in the shade. They love food and trying new things – but still want it to have a familiarity to it. They want to be adventurous but still safe. They want to have pools and water features, but not too deep as many don’t swim that well and want their kids to be safe by themselves. Setting up special breakfast buffets just for kids, and having games corners, consoles, and smart TVs all help give families a great stay.
“We measure and discuss guest feedback and scores daily to help us improve in all areas and across all hotels, always trying to reduce mistakes and improve how families use and enjoy their time at our hotels.”
Who is John Flood?
I’m originally from Dublin in Ireland but now have Indonesian citizenship. I’ve been in the hotel and catering industry since I was 14 years old, so it will be 40 years in the business this September. I’ve always thought hotels were the most glamorous places in the world and as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be in or around hotels.
I played a lot of tennis when I was a kid and it’s still my main hobby today. My wife and I play most days and also visit tennis tournaments when we get a chance. This year, we were lucky enough to see the French Open and Wimbledon.
I’m currently the President and CEO of Archipelago International which is a hotel management company. We’re currently ranked about number 41 in the world for size.
Fun fact – I decided to be in the hotel business when I was 8 years old.
Tell us more about Archipelago International.
In short, we want to become the best hospitality company to come out of Southeast Asia. To bring the magic of Asian hospitality, hotels, design, and service to a huge number of people.
We enjoy developing hotel concepts, putting it all together, training the staff and seeing it all succeed. From two-star to five-star, we want them all to be best in class – to have a classic hotel feel even if it has a new design concept while underpinning it all with the best tech available and the best tech we can develop as hoteliers.
We try to attract the best people to our group and make our hotels and corporate office a really great place to work. We measure and discuss guest feedback and scores daily to help us improve in all areas and across all hotels, always trying to reduce mistakes.
It’s been three years since Indonesia Expat last spoke with you. What’s new with Archipelago International?
During Covid, we developed our “Powered by Archipelago” service which offers our online connectivity and distribution to hotels not managed by us. When we launched it last year, it was a big hit and we’ve signed deals in the Philippines, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and even Kenya. It’s a service that hotels that are not in a chain really need as it is difficult for them to buy and connect all the systems, run it all with competent staff and negotiate with all the Ota’s. We basically offer a one-stop-shop for it, and it’s become very successful and sought after.
Finally, we also got busy developing our own Hotel Property Management System which took two years to build and launched last December. This was a big undertaking and I’m really proud of the team that put it together.
Prior to our last conversation, where we touched base on the pandemic’s effects, how is Archipelago International progressing afterwards?
During the pandemic, we stayed aggressive looking for business development opportunities. We knew some competitors would withdraw from certain markets and this gave us a chance to pick up some deals in various places such as Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba.
Celebrating similar successes and creating similar impacts across all Archipelago International properties globally is significant. How is the development in other countries connected to the ones in Indonesia?
We try to embrace the diversity in the design of our hotels, the services offered and how our staff are trained and interact with guests.
Up to 90 percent of what hotels do is the same worldwide, but it’s that other 10 percent that can be used to really promote the location of the hotel and give guests a sense of place. Whether they’re in one of our hotels in Manado or Havanna, they should get the feeling all around the hotel and in their rooms of where they are.
In a service-centred industry like the hotel business, the result of our business is a satisfied customer and having an organisation with a total service culture from top to bottom is something we strive to create, develop, and instil in our people – people who have a real passion for serving and looking after guests.
We pay attention to any guest comments or complaints and although not happy that we failed in some way, we try and look at complaints as the roadmap from which we learn. We always try to give people more than what they expect to get.
There is power in small wins and slow gains – This is why the system is greater than the goal and we try to ensure our staff are always working to develop and improve the hotel systems.
Speaking of Indonesia, what’s next?
Apart from the increased use of technology both in hotels for guests and for hotel operators increasing their use of tech to support better services, I think the following trends will be seen in Indonesia in the next few years.
Working remotely is now very common and we think it’s more than just a passing trend. For us hoteliers, this means we need to turn ourselves into remote working hotspots for both locals and travellers by adapting our offering to meet the needs and wants of this emerging segment.
Health and well-being, preventative medicine and self-care are really trending now, and the wellness industry is really growing – hotels are well-positioned to take a big piece of the pie – especially those with existing spa facilities.
Digitalised guest experiences through apps or other devices such as Google Nests, smart TVs and so forth are allowing hotels to manage the services we provide to guests so that we can control and improve the guests’ experience.
More personalisation is now expected by guests, so hotels are now implementing hyper-personalisation by using tech platforms such as CRM and CEM which use bug data to create highly-customised one-to-one interactions between the hotel and guests – but at scale.
The development of the local workforce is one of the biggest rewards for the company. How has it impacted Indonesia, for example? Are there notable recognitions worth sharing?
We try to attract the best people to our group and make our hotels and corporate office a really great place to work. We train as often as we can, so staff are confident in what they do, and everything runs smoothly.
We measure and discuss guest feedback and scores daily to help us improve in all areas and across all hotels, always trying to reduce mistakes. We try to ensure the whole organisation is in alignment – explaining and discussing how and why things are done. Creating alignment between strategy and culture allows individuals and teams to work together and act with a more unified and harmonious mindset.
We love to see our Indonesian staff develop and from all the 16,000 staff we have at the hotels in Indonesia – every single one of them is Indonesian. Many of them have worked for us in several properties over many years and it’s great to see them develop as people and professionals over the years.
In your perspective, why is Archipelago International’s stance today?
Covid was a tough time for the world and for tourism and hospitality in particular. In order to survive, we basically used a “last man standing” strategy. We knew that many competitor hotels would close so we tried to reduce expenses as much as possible and stay open.
With a pandemic, the government and NGOs would still need to meet and discuss it, and companies would still need to travel around so in the end most of our hotels stayed open and broke even pretty much. We were also aggressive in selling online and started promotions such as a Flash Sale on Friday nights with our OTA partners and they worked out really well.
Staying open helped us ramp up faster when COVID-19 waves passed and our hotels stayed in better condition as they were being maintained all the time. When business fully returned, we got back to 2019 levels within a few months.
From a corporate office perspective, we tried to reduce our expenses and that was pretty much it. We don’t have any debt and keep good cash reserves, so we knew we had enough money to get us through two or three years of a pandemic at least. So, in the end, it was a difficult time but not that stressful for us. We got our heads down and got busy.
We expected it to last about two years, so we made a plan of what we wanted to achieve during that time. We basically pressed the rest button and used the time to improve our processes, do a lot of training, clean up the brands and develop some new software and apps. We came out of COVID-19 in a much better place than when we went in.
What are the trends for family stays in 2023? How has Archipelago International adapted?
Airline costs will continue to be high for another year or so until airlines can bring all their aircraft and staff back up to full speed. Staycations will continue to be popular for families who’ve actually had a chance during COVID-19 to really find out how beautiful so many parts of Indonesia really are.
Our hotels have done many things to make it easier and more affordable for families to enjoy our hotels, from providing more triple and family rooms to servicing more kid-friendly menus. Smart TVs, Google Nests and other tech additions to our rooms have also elevated family stays and made hotels a cool place to stay, coupled with visits to the local markets and tourist attractions providing more than enough family moments at the moment and memories for a lifetime.
How can our readers get in touch?
Visit our Archipelago or brand websites, our membership app or through our valued travel partners. Booking hotels has never been easier.