Noeke Kusuma, General Manager, Four Points By Sheraton
Four Points By Sheraton at night
A guestroom of Four Points By Sheraton
Dhaka : For a Noeke Kasuma, Bangladesh is not an unknown place for the Indonesia-born professional civil engineer turned hotelier. She is presently General Manager of Four Points by Sheraton Dhaka.
Noeke Kusuma is in the hotel industry since 1996 when she joined Hyatt Hotel in Indonesia as a Marketing Analyst. She enjoys hotel management, despite her father frowning when she took the job in a hotel and not as an engineer.
In 22 years she excelled herself in five-star hotel management. She worked in different countries in various positions. "You meet people 24 hours," she said with a smile. "That was the reason I am a hotelier not an engineer."
This is her third placement in Bangladesh. She had been with The Westin Dhaka, when it opened in 2007. Then she took another challenge with Bengal Group's boutique hotel in Gulshan. After three years' stint in Bangladesh, she worked in various hotels in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries which kept her enthusiasm in hotel sector very high.
Last year, Marriott offered her the Dhaka job. She jumped on the proposal and moved to Dhaka. "I am back to Dhaka," said Kusuma. "I love Dhaka, specially 'Puran' (Old) Dhaka and 'Bakarkhani' (a Moghul snacks like biscuit texture)."
Regarding new challenges in the industry, she said new properties are coming. It is a reality. The staffs, the chefs and those in managerial positions will look for opportunities to move to better positions in the new properties.
Kusuma thinks, when the new properties open up, the guests will surely knock their doors. The guests would expect excellent hospitality and also competitive room rates. "I always welcome new properties. This ushers healthy competition and the demand to improve services and revitalise synergy in the team," Kasuma said.
In another couple of years Marriott, Sheraton and other chains will appear in the skyline of Dhaka. New concept hotels will attract customers. The flow chart of hotels guests is enlarging, along with the economic growth in Bangladesh.
This economic trend will continue, with the government's policy to invest in mega infrastructure projects and human development programmes, she said.
Another big challenge is hiring skilled manpower to manage hotels, absence of human resource development in the private sector. It is an uphill task to train new recruits, as it is a continuous process to ensure high class services to customers.
Hiring skilled manpower in hotel industry was very difficult, Kusuma said recalling her Westin Dhaka days ten years ago. Recruitment of experienced staffs is getting better and better. That is why hotel chains like Marriott have expats to manage new concept hotels.
It is not only training of staff members, but also educate them to understand the value of customer service. "I think, nowadays, the new generation hotel staff understand and have acquired the skills to offer best customer services," she said.
"I compare a hotel with a city management. You have to think about water, electricity, food, place to sleep, people who are working round the clock - to keep the property vibrant with energy. The hotel management is like a Mayor managing a mini-city, with built-in pulsating amenities which cannot be compromised with customer services, including social pleasantries," Kusuma said.
Business is good. The hotel's average occupancy is 70 per cent. The occupancy is very sensitive. Slight street agitation or political violence can jeopardise the business in hotel industry. Hopefully the business will be as usual with the industry during parliament elections in next winter, said Kusuma.
"We do not have leisure guests here. Our guests are mostly from India, Singapore, China, Malaysia, United States and Britain. It is really mix of people coming here for business," she explained.
She has massive plans to augment F&B business. The hotel has a Latin American menu at the restaurant on the 26th floor, with Brazilian chef to take care of the customer's happiness. In the Ramadan season, the hotel hosted Moroccan menu during Iftar, which was highly appreciated.
"I dared to omit many Indian food from the menu. If the customer's needs to taste Indian foods, they can surely go to any 10 best restaurants in Dhaka, where they will be served with exclusive Indian cuisine.”
The hotel does not have much leisure guests. The guests mainly come for business not pleasure. To attract leisure guests, Dhaka should be promoted as a shopping city or for traditional food. It will be surely draw more tourists for enjoying mouth-watering 'deshi' foods in 'Puran' Dhaka. The old city could be promoted for walk-and-eat tour. Likewise, Mirpur Banarasi Palli for shopping hand-woven traditional sarees.
"One day I will share with the world, the stories of 'Puran' Dhaka. There are hundreds of tourists who are not interested in monuments and religious sites. Security issue could be a deterrent to encourage foreign tourists for walking tour of 'Puran' Dhaka, but I do not feel it as a problem," Kusuma said.