Herman Courbois is the newly appointed General Manager of Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta.
With extensive experience managing hotels, Herman is simply in awe of the hotel. Indonesia Expat had the chance to discuss all things history, present, and future.
Herman, you’ve recently been appointed as Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta’s newest General Manager. Congratulations! How has it been managing this historical property?
It’s an honour to take on the helm of this iconic property during difficult times. When I joined the hotel, it was closed due to the pandemic along with some minor renovations being done. We also needed to be compliant with the health protocols and get the staff up to speed and motivated again to serve our guests upon opening.
Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta holds significant historical values. Can you briefly explain it?
It was a Royal Garden during the reign of Sultan Hamengkubuwono V of Yogyakarta. A small pendopo was built, commonly used for the Sultan to rest and welcome the arrival of diplomatic envoys. Royal guests continued to be welcomed here until the reign of Sultan Hamengkubuwono VI. The pendopo was extended in 1857-1859 and named Pesanggrahan Harja Purna.
Sultan Hamengkubuwono VII continued its expansion. However, it later became a palace residence with dalem, gandok, bale kambang, pacaosan or gadri, doorloop, and alun-alun – it was like a Keraton. People at the time called it “Kedaton”, which has the same meaning as Keraton.
Ambarrukmo Palace Hotel, its previous name, was built in the Ambarrukmo area in 1964, adjacent to the pendopo building. It later became Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta in 2011.
Today, it emerges as a luxury accommodation where modernity is keeping up with regal traditions.
Speaking of which, there’s a mini-museum in the compound displaying artefacts from Yogyakarta’s Sultan and his family. Are tours open for public or strictly for in-house guests?
Pendopo Agung Ambarrukmo is the museum itself consisting of the Javanese culture and regal traditions of Sultan Hamengkubuwono II-VII. Open for public, it became more popular accommodating MICE events and weddings.
The hotel is massively influenced by Yogyakarta’s traditions and influence in art. How does the hotel maintain these traditions?
We are continuously working on the maintenance project on the hotel’s main building, pendopo to Bale Kambang.
Weekly cultural performances and community activities are held to maintain and preserve its authentic spirit and Javanese hospitality. We adapted to Patehan, the royal high tea and Caos Dhahar, the fine-dining service of the Sultan’s favourite special delicacies paraded on a big wooden box called jodhang.
In your opinion, what makes the Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta special?
Beyond its legacy, the hotel is an award-winning five-star independent hotel and best breakfast. The hotel’s facilities are of top quality and standard. It is a city resort with the most favourite semi-outdoor and outdoor venue. The hotel also became the first certified hotel on implementing complete and strict health protocol for guests and staff.
This global pandemic has hindered large public events to take place. What is the hotel doing to celebrate the holidays and ring in the new year?
We have to simplify the new year concept, while still holding a prestigious dinner with exclusive entertainment. Our special offer includes one-stop entertainment in all outlets; thus, guests can enjoy live music and DJ at Punika Deli starting in the afternoon, and more live music from dinner until countdown in Samazana.
What can aspire guests expect from Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta in 2021?
– Nostalgia in the prestigious and luxurious Royal Ambarrukmo Yogyakarta.
– The best option for both business and leisure accommodation and cultural activities.
– A family weekend with one-stop entertainment and cultural activities.
You describe yourself as an experienced General Manager with a demonstrated history of working in the hospitality industry. How did you find yourself diving into the hospitality industry?
From an early age, I decided to go into the hospitality industry. That mainly came from my parents who worked in the same field and are owners of a small business.
So, since a young age, I was doing the dishes and grew myself into the ranks of the F&B department. I took a degree in hospitality while also working in several jobs under different departments, hotels, and countries on the weekends – even, the holidays.
I became an intern in Indonesia in 1996, and with a bit of luck and due to the economic crisis in 1997/98, I remained and built my career.
With that extensive experience in managing hotels, especially in Indonesia, what has been your biggest lesson throughout the years?
To remain humble and able to adapt to the dynamics in this diverse country. Indonesia has great potential. Serving guests is second nature to most of the Southeast Asian countries, which makes our lives a bit easier to manage.
Mention your favourite activities to do in Yogyakarta so far.
Exploring the culinary side of this city. Then Dirgayuswa Kasanga, the Royal Ambarrukmo 9th anniversary on cultural and social events on 11th October 2020 – nine years and still young, we held great activities to celebrate this milestone, which I’m greatly privileged to celebrate.
And a lot, lot more.
What will you be doing for the holidays?
Most likely working and looking after the hotel. I normally work during this period since my motto is: “As being the Host of Hotel, I should be there when it’s the busiest period of the operation”. Then I’ll take some well-deserved break in early January, which will most likely be in Indonesia. I could probably explore Labuan Bajo or Lombok.
Lastly, tell us a fun fact about yourself.
Something which people don’t immediately expect from me is that I’m intrigued by the cultural heritage of this property and the Sultanate of Jogja as a whole. Upon my arrival, I directly asked the team to arrange a session to Imogiri and ask for blessings. This is now a routine for all newcomers in our team.