Hotel Intel is pleased to announce Benjamin Krieg, General Manager of Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20 as our Hotelier of the Month. This 1-year-old property is making waves in the Bangkok hotel scene and has much to offer guests in terms of new dining concepts and flagship luxurious and comfortable yet approachable vibe here in Sukhumvit. Brian Greco sits down with Mr. Krieg to discuss his career background, sources of inspiration, and approach to hospitality.
Take a listen to the full conversation below (approx 18 min):
Here are some highlights to take away:
BG: “What has your experience been like being here as a GM? How do you feel about the team, the operation—What inspires you most about being here?”
BK: “I’ve now been in Thailand for 5 years, and I’ve worked with Accor for over 13 years. So I’ve got a reasonable amount of experience with Accor — long enough to say that I’ve been in Thailand for a while. I wouldn’t say that I’m an old hat—it’s a really fast-paced evolving city. I think what’s really exciting about our particular hotel is having all of the new brand aspects and having all of the beautiful new rooms, facilities, a rooftop bar – and combining that with a really personable touch with our staff.
So recruitment is key for finding the right people. We don’t necessarily look at a specific hospitality background. We look for the right people with the right attitude—and even better than the facilities we have, it really complements the product and the deliverables we can give our guests. Because I think if you’ve got those service touch points from the time you walk in to the time you leave, that will be just as fond if not a fonder memory of the hotel. And I think that’s how we position ourselves differently from other hotels in Bangkok.”
BG: “How has your approach to your work changed? What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in your role?”
BK: “I’ve had an amazing journey. If I look at what’s happened even in the last 5 years just being in Thailand, we’ve had massive disruptions. I arrived here just after some challenges the country had faced from the floods. Really understanding how such a massive city with huge inbound tourism numbers—hotels opening every week—it’s definitely taught me more things about being a General Manager than I’ve experienced in my previous 5 or 6 years of being a GM. From that perspective, it’s such a dynamic city with such demand. If you don’t find unique ways to stand out, you really fall behind disappear.
I think if I look overall at my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to go from front line positions all the way to General Managers. I’ve now done two openings—I’ve opened up in Sydney, in 2010 and was fortunate to now have my fourth GM role here. Each role has very different unique aspects. I had one property that was a little bit older of a property and had different challenges to what a brand new one has. Doing that in four different cities—it makes a really big difference at how you look to day to day responsibilities.”
BG: “Are there any sources you use to identify new trends and bring them into your hospitality approach?”
BK: “Whenever I’m traveling, even on the weekend, or just doing shopping at the local supermarket—I don’t think I ever stop looking at how people do things. How shops, business, startups, even a local shop in Chinatown—how they might be doing one particular deliverable. If you don’t pidgeonhole yourself to one industry, you can always find something you can apply or twist to make it work for you.
I most probably would read 3-5 articles a day—I’ve got about 4 apps to generate news for me. Twitter is still a massive thing for me for news—that’s where I get a lot of holistic news, not just tourism and hospitality magazines, but more of a global perspective as well. You can’t ever stop looking into how you can get better. As long as you’ve always got that open approach—that approach is through your whole hotel. The whole hotel has to be pushing convention.
The biggest thing I can attribute a number of success is to always challenge the norms—never accept anything just because it was done yesterday. Sometimes you’ll get in trouble, sometimes a reprimand—but as they say, it’s better to ask forgiveness than ask permission. If you’re always pushing those boundaries, that’s how you can have a successful evolving business.”
Special thanks to Khun Ben for his insights as well as Khun Pan for her assistance and tour of the property. As Bangkok remains such a rapidly changing city—it seems like a new hotel appears every week—it’s up to management to differentiate their properties to attract guests. Our Hotelier of the Month series at Hotelintel.co aims to bring you the best of these leading minds and pass along tidbits of wisdom to those who care about hospitality.