Himawari Hotel GM Sentot Sutrisnadi is a 24-year veteran of the hotel industry.
Jakarta-born Sentot Sutrisnadi has worked in the hospitality industry for 24 years, learning the business initially in his native Indonesia before coming to Cambodia in 1999. He talked to Education & Careers about his background in hospitality and the prospects for the sector in Cambodia.
How did you come to work in the hospitality sector?
Well, I attended a hotel management school in Bali from 1981 to 1983 after graduating from senior high school in Jakarta. After graduation I got a job in a high-end hotel in Jakarta. In 1999, I came to Phnom Penh where I opened the Bali Cafe restaurant in the Parkway Square shopping centre with a friend. After a year I left the group to return to working in the hotel industry.
Of course I had already worked in high-end hotels in Jakarta for 16 years, so it was an easy switch. I started working at a hotel in Siem Reap as operations manager and then left there to work as a general manager at another hotel for six years. I became general manager at Himawari Hotel in November last year. In total, I have now worked in the hotel industry for 24 years.
How does working for somebody else compare with having your own business?
Having my own restaurant was much more difficult than working in a hotel. There were so many tasks that I had to do, and maintaining everything was a big problem. So, I quit the restaurant and came back to hotels.
So, working in a hotel is relatively easy?
Some people say it is very hard and some people say it is easy. It is like driving a car - if people can drive, it is easy; but when we are learning, it is difficult. It depends on practice and experience.
People without knowledge of hotels will meet a lot of obstacles, but if you graduate from a hotel school you will have learned standards, hospitality skills, communication and everything concerning hotels. When you come to work in a hotel, you are already equipped with all of these skills. Working in a hotel, you meet a lot of customers and staff and you need to be flexible and able to adapt to the situation.
People without knowledge of hotels will meet a lot of obstacles.
Do you see a good future for the hospitality sector in Cambodia?
Cambodia is a developing country, and all sectors are growing very fast, attracting all kinds of investments. As investors come and new infrastructure is built, the hotel industry will be very important as it employs thousands of local residents.
What is the relationship between hotels and the rest of the tourism sector?
Participation from the hotel sector can be very effective in growing the tourism sector. As hotel operators, we have to be very active in supplying tourism operators with information and other support. For instance, we need to let operators know about the rooms we have available and the facilities we can provide. In return they need to also supply us with information.
What advice do you have for jobseekers in the sector?
When people start working in hotels they still have a lot to learn, so they need to be flexible, confident and careful. But even if people have never been to a hotel school, if they have these qualities and are ready to adapt, we can train them quickly.
For people working in the hotel industry or wishing to work in the industry there are plenty of employment opportunities as more and more hotels are starting up.
People need to make a decision that they will work in a hotel and shape themselves so they are prepared for the atmosphere they will encounter. When I first worked in a hotel, I felt normal because I had studied for three years at a hotel school and had already encountered almost every situation I had to face. The key is to be confident.
Working in a hotel is very interesting because we meet a lot of people and can learn many languages and discover many different cultures.
Do you have plans to go back into business by yourself?
I am sure I will do it again if there is a chance but I would start with a small place. If I do have an opportunity, I will run a business in Cambodia because this country is still the best place to operate a tourism or hotel business as the country is developing very fast and everything is changing so rapidly. It is becoming more and more international, and I am really proud to stay here.