It’s a confronting, difficult, and never-ending situation the world is facing, said Brendon Meppem.
Regardless, spreading love and warmth are needed even more than ever. As the Area General Manager Indonesia for IHG and General Manager of Holiday Inn & Suites Jakarta Gajah Mada, Brendon told Indonesia Expat that IHG properties across the country are inviting guests to have a safe and heartwarming experience.
Tell us about yourself. How did you arrive at working in hospitality?
I’ve always been interested in food and cooking from a very early age. After I completed high school, I completed a hospitality and catering qualification. I really enjoyed the cookery side of the program, however, I decided to pursue options in front-of-house roles rather than in the kitchen.
I had the opportunity to work in a few different areas of the hospitality and tourism industry at the start of my career and then decided that hotels, particularly food and beverage operations, is what I wanted to do.
My interest in food, wine, and more recently coffee continues to grow. I’ve learnt a lot more about coffee since living in Indonesia. Indonesia is very blessed to have some fantastic coffee-growing areas – some of my favourites are from Aceh, Sulawesi, Bali, and Java.
Working in hotels allows you to travel for both work and leisure. You also have a wonderful opportunity to meet and work with people from many different places. The excitement of hotel life is really never-ending – in over two decades, no day has ever been the same, which keeps it interesting and keeps you on your toes.
You’ve tackled major cities in Australia, New Zealand, and across Southeast Asian countries. How would you describe the hospitality industry’s differences between Indonesia and elsewhere?
I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career to work in four different countries and several different cities. With my work, I’ve also had the opportunity to be exposed to many more countries. I’ve worked in a small regional town of approximately 10,000 people to a megalopolis of over 30 million people.
The industries in Southeast Asia and Australia and New Zealand are similar yet different. The core purpose of what we do really remains the same; welcoming in and taking care of people. We’re a place to catch up with friends and family or celebrate a special occasion; somewhere to do business or relax by a pool or beach.
The nuances of a city or country will often shine through in the food, décor, and the way people interact with each other. Southeast Asia is a rapidly developing region with so many different experiences available to you in a relativity small area. Expansion of hotels and resorts in SEA is more active, this offers many opportunities for those people working in the industry to advance their career quickly. The ability to work with many cultures and countries also broadens your outlook not only on work but also on life.
Describe Holiday Inn & Suites Gajah Mada in one word.
What’s the concept and speciality of the hotel?
The hotel is designed to meet the needs of both business and leisure travellers.
We have large, spacious rooms from 40 up to almost 100sqm. We have specific rooms designed for long stay guests that have a large living space, along with kitchenettes and dining facilities. We also have two-bedroom kids suites which are perfect for families.
If you’re looking to hold a small convention, a conference, meeting, wedding, or social event, we have three floors of dedicated meeting spaces. With two ballrooms and 21 flexible meeting rooms, many have natural light and some offer direct access to an outdoor terrace area. There’s also an onsite carpark with over 930 spaces.
Leisure facilities include an infinity pool and deck area where you can watch the stunning sunsets of Jakarta. We also have a fully equipped gym and day spa.
If you could make a must-to-do list in the hotel, what would it consist of?
- An early morning swim or work out in the gym
- Morning tea or coffee and a delicious cake from Duta Bakery
- Lunch at one of the many great places to eat at Citywalk Gajah Mada, directly under the hotel
- A relaxing afternoon of self-indulgence in the day spa
- A cool afternoon drink watching the sunset on the pool deck
- A Chinese dinner in Duta Café & Restaurant
- A Nightcap in Duta Lounge
As the Area General Manager Indonesia for IHG and General Manager of Holiday Inn & Suites Gajah Mada, you oversee twelve hotels around Jakarta, Bandung, Semarang, and Surabaya. What are the challenges you’re facing these days?
We need to ensure the guest experience remains the focus of what we’re doing. People are cautious about travelling now and they’re certainly very focused on cleanliness. IHG has partnered with industry-leading experts, Ecolab and Diversey, to ensure the highest hygiene standards in all areas of our hotels using science-led protocols by launching the IHG Clean Promise. This initiative aligns with IHG Way of Clean, collaborating with the team of medical experts at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic to develop guidance and resources for hotel teams on keeping guests safe in this new environment.
On top of this, we work hand in hand with the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy by participating in CHSE (Cleanliness, Health, Safety, and Environment) certifications as the prioritised measure in the hospitality industry.
Looking after colleagues is also extremely important, particularly their health and wellbeing. Being open and honest in our communication and continuing to focus on development and training at this time continues.
One of the main challenges these days is working with the hotel teams to ensure we do all we can to generate revenue for each hotel and also watch expenditures. We need to ensure we work with our owning partners to look after their hotel.
Flexibility is the key at the moment, as things can and often do change at a moment’s notice. We need to be adaptable and ready to meet whatever the requirements are.
Are there any upcoming promotions by Holiday Inn & Suites Gajah Mada and the other IHG hotels?
“IHG Rewards Club Dining Privileges Program” has just been launched by IHG this month. Guests can save up to 20 percent and earn 250 IHG Rewards Club points when dining at participating hotels for every Rp350,000 spent on food and beverages.
Until March 31, 2021, IHG Rewards Club members will earn 2,000 bonus points by staying at any IHG hotel or resort. Members can later redeem the points for future stays, dining, airline miles, and many other benefits across all IHG hotels and resorts around the world. To become an IHG Rewards Club member, guests can simply enrol through IHG Mobile App or website www.ihg.com/rewardsclub.
We’re currently offering a “Joy in Meal Box” for those who crave our chefs’ signature dishes to be delivered to their door. We also offer a delicious selection of cakes and bakery products from Duta Bakery delivered to your home or office.
Throughout your career, you must have a well-learned lesson. What is it?
So many lessons learnt, and sometimes the hard way.
I once worked for a leader who told me during a performance review to “get comfortable being uncomfortable”. This message has stuck with me for a long time and it’s something I’ve shared many times with my teams over the years.
You learn the most when you are in an uncomfortable situation. Being challenged to stretch yourself in unfamiliar areas of work isn’t easy but the rewards of doing it in a supported environment allows people to grow exponentially.
Playing it “safe”, staying in your comfort zone, and not taking calculated risks from time to time aren’t the way to learn new things and advance your career.
You talk about being passionate about developing people and advocating for women in leadership roles. Care to share your secret?
I believe as a leader, I have a responsibility to develop people so that they have the opportunity to learn and grow. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very inspiring individuals who are passionate about people and hospitality. My role is to guide and challenge people to sometimes do what they think is impossible.
It’s through inspiring and giving people belief they can do things, along with the flexibility to make mistakes and learn that the very best outcomes can be achieved. A short term stretch project can deliver more capability from someone than an extended “cross-training” program. I see myself as the enabler – unlocking people’s potential.
In my role, I’ve also worked with and continue to work with some fantastic female leaders. We have many aspiring female leaders in IHG and we developed a mentoring program called RISE a few years ago to support them in realising their ambition of becoming a general manager. Working with them and seeing them grow is why I enjoy what I do so much.
Spreading love and warmth is needed more than ever now. Do you agree or disagree? How?
People should always be kind and respectful to each other. So yes, love and warmth are needed now probably more than ever.
The current situation is confronting, difficult, and sometimes feels never-ending. Whilst we don’t know how long it’ll go on for, one thing is absolutely certain – it will end!
In the meantime, there are many things we can do to support our family, friends, and colleagues. Minimise the risk by following the basic guidelines; social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and using hand sanitiser. It still surprises me, after all this time, that I see people not adhering to these.
Supporting people through communication is also really important, particularly if you have family and friends living away and you cannot see them. It’s easy to video call and check up on someone nowadays. A quick call and some moral support can go a very long way for someone having a tough day or week.
What’s a fun fact we should know about you?
I’ve recently taken up boxing for the first time. It’s a great way to release stress and is a fantastic cardio workout.
How’s Indonesia? Would you recommend friends from overseas to move here, even in this unusual time?
Indonesia offers so many different experiences for people to see and do. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, single or a family, seeking adventure and excitement or a place to relax and recharge, you’ll find countless options here. The food is also an adventure, depending on where you are and the hospitality offered by Indonesians is genuine, warm, and welcoming.
Indonesia offers a great climate and lifestyle to live and work. The food and people are fantastic and there’s so much to experience – I would definitely recommend taking up an opportunity to move here if it becomes available.