Michael Issenberg: Developing Human Resources Based on Career Opportunities


TODAY the hotel industry is becoming more competitive as indicated by the rapid growth of hotels and tourism around the world.  This development is not only taking place in European countries and the US but many hotel owners are also focusing on Asia which is the new gold mine for the industry especially as many people now travel to various Asian countries.

Asia has now become a flourishing market for hotels, so it is not surprising that the global hotel industry is also focusing on Indonesia which has many attractive tourism sites.

Michael Issenberg, chairman and chief operational officer of Accor Asia Pacific, agrees that there are great opportunities for the hotel business in Asia, including Indonesia.  Indeed while the recent natural disasters had a somewhat negative impact on the region’s economy the increased mobility of travelers has made the hotel business in Asia quite promising.

According to Issenberg the growing Indonesian economy has triggered more business and leisure travelling. “In my opinion the hotel industry in Asia including in Indonesia is developing rapidly and especially in Jakarta and Bali it is quite solid. However, in the next five to 10 years I am sure Indonesia can compete globally. Accor with its expansive and wide ranging hotel network in Indonesia strengthens the brand Accor while all available significant resources in Indonesia help develop Accor’s business further. Accor in Indonesia gives a unique experience to its customers so that they are attracted to come here again,” he said.

In view of the business opportunities available Accor plans to open 34 new hotels nationwide in Indonesia with a total number of 4,526 rooms within the next four years starting from 2011 and to be completed by 2014.

Some of the names of the hotels that will be built are as follows: Pullman Jakarta Central Park, Novotel Jakarta Gajah Mada, The Kuta Beach Heritage (McGallery), Ibis Bandung Supermall, All Seasons Bali Nusa Dua and Benoa, Novotel Banjarmasin, Mercure Palu, Mercure Serpong Alam Sutera, Ibis Makassar Losari, Ibis Jakarta Senen as well as Formule 1 Semarang. The huge number of hotels to be built by Accor in Indonesia highlights the promising market for the hotel industry in the country.

“I visited a number of cities here in Indonesia, such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Bali and Yogyakarta before deciding to open more hotels. What I see is a solid market and good business opportunity for hotels, so the Accor hotel network in Indonesia is to fulfill both business and tourism segments,” said Issenberg.

As COO of one of the world’s largest hotel operators Issenberg emphasized that he is ready to take his team to the global competition in the hotel industry.  The key, he said, is the uniqueness of Accor as a European company that incorporates European culture amid the mushrooming of hotels originating from US or having an American style. By European culture he means the unique French elegance, which albeit luxurious can be targeted at different market segments. This can be clearly seen from the wide range of Accor hotels that cater to the upper, middle as well as lower segments. “Although we have various classes the unique European design is the main key of Accor hotels,” he explained.

Issenberg, who is a graduate of Cornell University, acknowledged that he fell in love with the hotel industry during his university days. After graduating he worked for Westin Hotels & Resorts, Laventhol and Horwath & Horwath Services, Merlin Properties, Mirvac Pty Limited and finally Accor. He first joined Accor as general manager Accor Asia Pacific. “I found my true heartfelt desire for the hotel industry during my university days and I put into practice what I learned there which turned out to be very useful for my work,” he said.

One thing is really important in the service business, said Issenberg, and that is human resources. Human resources, he explains, is a vital asset and must be taken care of. He has one principle or philosophy for his work: enjoy your work. And this is what he transfers to Accor employees. “If you enjoy doing something the result will certainly be good and if you enjoy doing it you can also influence others to work seriously as well,” he explained.

Issenberg said at Accor it was not only this principle or philosophy — enjoy your work — but career opportunities or promotions were wide open and fast. So it is very possible to be promoted to a different hotel or to another country. “These opportunities make the employees feel better and more secure. They also come to realize more about themselves, their work and their purpose in work. All these things motivate them further,” he said.

Although having achieved quite an important position in his career Issenberg, who loves to swim and work out at the gym, is very much a family man and loves his family and leads a simple life. His busy schedule at the top position in the hotel industry does not make him forget his family. His children are a source of inspiration and he gets lots of knowledge and lessons in life from them. “I have two teenage kids, one is a boy and the other is a girl. I learn a lot from them and see points of view that I never thought of before. My son teaches me about current technology which he loves, while my daughter gives me lessons about femininity,” he said.

When he has the time he takes his family abroad for a quality vacation. As they love to ski there are a number of favorite places for Issenberg’s family like Colorado and Japan. Other favorite places are Bali, Sydney and Paris. Bali is a very special place for him because he was married there. Bali, especially Seminyak, is also a favorite place for his children as they like to do their shopping there.

However Issenberg acknowledges that his success as chairman and chief operational officer is possibly due to his sense of competition. For him success means winning in a match or competition.

However to win everyone must set a benchmark, but that is not easy, he said. It is the individual’s experience that takes him or her to success, he added. “But I don’t use my competitive trait in human relations. Winning or losing is not valid here. I only tell many people that I hope they can enjoy what they are doing and be happy,” he said in conclusion. (Isabella Jong)

The Jakarta Post, June 18, 2011

*this is one of some articles in which I used nickname as Isabella Jong for some reasons.

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