Hospitality is in the DNA of the people in Thailand and known as the Land of Smiles this is deeply embedded in the culture.
Dutch native Niek Hammer, is a dedicated and passionate hospitality professional who has a broad knowledge of complex F&B and Room Division operations. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management and a Master’s diploma in International Service Management, and began his career in 1996 at The Grand Hotel which is a Westin Hotel & Resorts International property in Amsterdam. Later, he spent two years at Chateau Elan Winery & Resort, a Marriott International hotel in Braselton, Georgia USA. From 2000-2005 and again from 2008-2016 he worked at Hotel Okura Amsterdam, rising to Assistant F&B Director in his first stint and later to Deputy General Manager with F&B oversight as well. Prior to joining The Okura Prestige Bangkok in 2019, Niek worked at Hotel Okura Macau and held the position of General Manager for three years.
Where are your hopes for the hospitality industry this year?
I hope that the world will be able to travel again this year in order for the industry to do what they are best at, serving our beloved guests. After a long wait of almost two years awaiting the return of international guests to Thailand, the industry is eager to showcase the beauty of the country, the culture and deliver hospitality to the world again. Thailand has everything to offer, from buzzing Bangkok to the beautiful tropical islands, delicious street food and some of the best beaches in the world. Hospitality is in the DNA of the people in Thailand and known as the Land of Smiles this is deeply embedded in the culture.
What plans or strategies are you currently working on in order to manage the return of tourists in the future? (Should the country open again)
The months of November and December 2021 have shown us that the guests' appetite, both corporate and leisure, to return to Thailand is very strong. With the upcoming resumption of the ‘Test & Go’ program, I am confident that guests will soon find their way back to Thailand. The Okura Prestige Bangkok is continuously monitoring the evolving Covid-19 situation closely and we are following the directions of the World Health Organization and relevant local health and government authorities. As ever, the comfort, safety and health of our guests and associates is always our primary concern and we have high standards for health and safety in both our back and front of house areas and have provided various additional measures to ensure a safe and clean environment.
If the pandemic has taught you anything, what would it be? What are the key takeaways?
Historically the hospitality industry is perhaps not known as the most innovative industry and is somewhat of a dinosaur. However, this past period has taught us that we have to become more innovative, be even more flexible and be able adapt ourselves to an ever changing environment in terms of regulations and lockdowns which have a direct effect on the business. The pandemic has taught us to not take things for granted and made us review business processes that have been in place for many years to improve them for the better. Above all, the team is the most fundamental part of our industry and it is because of our ‘software’ that people continue to come back to our hotel and why we have been able to maintain our positioning in the market. We have had great support from our owning company Asset World Corporation; they have been committed to Building a Better Future by bringing pride as well as an enjoyable, happy, and collaborative working environment to its employees.
There are a lot of luxury hotels on Wireless Road, how do you attract people to your hotel? Why would they want to stay at the Okura?
Although Okura is not a large chain (we operate 74 hotels globally under our three brand names Okura Hotels & Resorts, Nikko Hotels International and Hotel JAL City), The Okura Prestige Bangkok is a unique hotel where we combine Japan’s rich service culture with Thailand’s world famous standards of hospitality. Baron Kishichiro Okura, our founder, wanted to open an international hotel where Japanese traditions would meet western comforts. He intended that rather than only being a place to stay, it was to be a luxurious haven where everyone feels welcome that lives & breathes ‘Omotenashi’ 【おもてなし】- the art of Japanese hospitality that is both omnipresent yet non-intrusive and respectful of distance. That sense differentiates us and lets people experience a sense of Japan while being in Thailand. We see Japanese hospitality as an art, ‘The Art of Okura in the Spirit of Omotenashi’ is our way to honor traditions, authenticity and craftsmanship.
Okura's art of craftsmanship is expressed in the culinary diversity of our restaurants, such as Yamazato, our award-winning signature restaurant is based upon the centuries-old traditional ‘Kaiseki Ryori’ (Japanese haute cuisine) as well as Elements, our Michelin-starred restaurant that serves French cuisine with Japanese influences in a relaxed, informal setting. In our kitchens, no concessions are made when it comes to age-old traditions, authentic preparation and the very best ingredients. But also in the table setting, the kimonos of the table ladies and the ever-present, but almost invisible service, where traditional craft plays an important role.
What advice or words of wisdom do you have for those in the industry at the moment?
We are now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thailand now has a 74% vaccination rate and booster shots are easily available. There is an ongoing increase of vaccinations across the globe with 60% of the global population vaccinated and many countries are easing travel restrictions mainly based on the lower risks associated with Omicron. People will always continue to travel and we are privileged to be in this industry, ensuring that guests are having a great time whether it's staying, or wining and dining with us.
Visit Niek Hammer at The Okura Prestige Bangkok