Christian Poda: GM, Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta

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Christian Poda is General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Jakarta, recalling the initial inkling that he might be suited for a career in the industry. Hospitality runs in Poda's family – grandmother, mother, father, "everybody at one point or another worked in hotels or restaurants." Meanwhile, growing up in Berlin back in the 1980s, Poda regularly strode past one of the grandest properties in the then-divided city, The Kempinski Bristol Hotel. "I liked the buzz, the sense of people from all over the world, and especially the elegance of hospitality. When it came time for me to choose a path, I thought, 'Let me try this. It seems like a fun job.'" Two-plus decades later, Poda's career path has taken him to his first role as GM in Jakarta. He arrived at the right time and with the right product, he says. The centrally-located all-suite hotel is "unparalleled to any property in Jakarta. The design is extraordinary. It’s the perfect complement of traditional European elegance yet refined and modernized to today’s discerning guests."

How did you get into the industry?

I was always fascinated with hotels and the fact that hospitality runs in my family – grandmother, mother, father, everybody at one point or another worked in hotels or restaurants. I started my career in hospitality industry over 20 years ago in my hometown, Berlin.

I joined Four Seasons over 16 years ago. I worked in Berlin, from there I moved to San Francisco and in 2006, relocated to Asia. A decade later, I’ve had the opportunity to work at many of our iconic properties in the region – most recently in Shanghai at Four Seasons Hotel Pudong and previously in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Maldives.

Any emerging industry trends?

The best thing to create a successful business is never stop to learn. Therefore, we always following the emerging trends to improve our business – what happen outside of the hotel so we can understand our customers well.  Eventhough we don’t want to be a market follower, we want to be a market leader that create something new in every aspects of the hotel with Four Seasons touch. For example the Four Seasons app puts legendary customer service in the palm of our customer’s hand. There are many features and functions from mobile check-in and check-out to seamless access to Four Seasons amenities and curated travel tips.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Challenges are always opportunities. As long as we listen to what our guests and staff are telling us and act upon it, we will be able to move with what the market requires. Things tend to move ever faster and faster now.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Jakarta is a business hub with one of the fastest growth in the region and luxury hotel operators are well represented. There is a robust offering for both leisure and business travelers, which is great because it creates a competitive environment and gives us great motivation.

As we return to the city, we strive to build on our 20-year history and play a leading role in continuing to define the future of luxury hospitality in Jakarta. We do that thru innovation, our unwavering commitment to the highest standards of quality, and most importantly, our undying love and passion for the most genuine and customized service which has earned Four Seasons its reputation as the world’s foremost operator of luxury hotels.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

The Hospitality industry is a totally customer focused business. Therefore, we always listening to our customers, we believe that what makes us perfect is when customer leave our hotel with a big smile. It means that our service meet their expectations. Paying attention to the ever changing needs and being able to customize services and experiences for each individual

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

We are very fortunate at Four Seasons Jakarta to have a successful partnership with the Rajawali Group – a company that shares our commitment to excellence and has been very supportive throughout. The opening of a Hotel relies on the dedication of many people whom collaborate to bring it to life. The project crew, including some of the best craftsmen, the operations team and support staff from Four Seasons network of dedicated employees from around the world make it happen. And it goes without saying that the warmth and friendliness of the team that has joined Four Seasons Jakarta makes me very confident that we will be able to deliver wonderful experiences to our guests. I am truly impressed by the innate hospitality culture that abounds in Indonesia.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Four Seasons has built a service culture – we are a Canadian company that grew up in North America, so we have that element of friendliness and informality within the efficiency.

Our lobby is very grand and can be intimidating to those not used to this sort of luxury, so the service delivery of our 300 staff has to reflect a “welcome, come in” manner.

However, it’s important to remember people’s demands change all the time – good service meant something different to our parents than it does to us, and indeed now does to the younger generations. It’s difficult for hoteliers – the traveler of today may want to stay at Four Seasons Jakarta but still try the street food at a local stall round the corner; they could be staying in Airbnb but drinking very expensive wine. These worlds coexist, they are not contrary anymore.

How do you motivate others?

I find it extremely important and enriching to have an open and close relationship with the whole team. I go on a few walks through the hotel every day and it’s great to catch up and have the ears close to the ground to know what moves our staff. It’s all about creating a positive environment in the Heart of House to be able to deliver the best to our guest. The way your employees feel is the way your customers feel.  When employees feel valued, so will the guests. At Four Seasons we believe in the Golden Rule, Treat others how you want to be treated. We live day by day based on that. Regardless in what position, we communicate in a positive way and with respect.

Career advice to those in your industry?

There is no substitute for hard work. Hospitality means long hours, but you have to have fun and enjoy all the interactions you can have each day. Don’t stop learning and exploring. Be innovative, committed to maintaining the highest standards of quality down to the smallest detail, and most importantly, passionate about delivering the very best customized service across the board. Stay humble…