MI: What was your first impression of the country?
My very first impression when I arrived here, in Yangon is that it is a Green city. And I was really amazed to see so many trees and I hope we will keep it that way.
MI: How that opinion has changed when you first arrived here and now after two years?
The beauty of Green is still there. The traffic in Yangon is really something that we need to take care of. When I first arrived here, almost no hand phone. Now almost every- body has a hand phone. The communication internet was very difficult but today way easier. So it shows how Myanmar is trying to improve and catch up with all the infrastructure beyond the right triangle.
MI: How did you end as the general manger of Novotel Yangon Max?
Before I came here, I was in Bali. I was in charge of 17 Accor properties there. I was working in Bali for eleven years and that was really upon on my request to Accor that I moved to Myanmar because for me Myanmar is going through such a wonderful time, such a wonderful changes and challenging. I think I want to be a part of it.
MI: How did you notice Myanmar while in Bali?
When I was in Bali, it was the time when we are talking highly about Myanmar that Myanmar has strength to change, to move forward and to catch up with worldwide economy. That is the way I started to notice Myanmar.
MI: Apart from Novotel, Accor has many hotels around Myanmar, could you please tell us more about different hotels?
Right Now, we are operating three hotels. One is Novetal Inle lake, one is M-Gallery, the lake garden in Nay Pyi Taw, and one is Novotel Yangon Max. Currently we have three hotels under constructions. One is in Yangon and the other two in Mandalay. Al- together we have six hotels right now. I am sure that there will be more to come.
MI: How did Accor end up collaborating with Max group in founding the Novotel Yangon Max?
I should say Novotel has such a good image in the past. In Myanmar, naturally for our owner, when they want to go with the inter- national chain, they think about Novotel because the brand was already established. So after discussion between Mr. Zaw Zaw, our chairman, and our Accor head office, they came up to an agreement and that is why we arrived here.
MI: What is the current room occupancy like?
Now we are entering the low season and the room occupancy is around 50-60% of the market for July.
MI: What is your future expectation like?
In Yangon, July August September are mainly low seasons and then I hope we will go back 70 to 80% room occupancy. So at that time, we should be busier.
MI: What is the target market segment like?
We have a double target, which is obviously we are considering our location for commu- nication on business and cooperate clients. We are already working with many big com- panies, and we are working a lot with gov- ernment as well as embassies. So, we have lots of event. Lately we have big events with Korea and China.
MI: Accor is the international chain hotel it has many hotels around the world, so how Novotel max is is different from another Novotel in other countries?
It is one of the five-star hotels in the world. There are more than 400 Novotel in the world but there are very few being ranked as five stars. You can see the great facilities, number of restaurants, number of bars and also here you can buy jewelries, and you can buy lots of things. The quality of ballrooms also makes the hotel five stars.
Mi: Under the brand name Novotel, how are you planning to open up new hotels around the country?
Novotel is the brand of Accor. The name of the company is Accor’s Hotels which is changed last week. We will open up few more Novotel here. Our target is in big cities and will be economy scale hotels. I also hope there will be Sofitel around the country in the future but, who knows where and when?
MI: How do you train your local staff?
As you know, when we started here two years ago, there was almost no vocational school for hotel industries but it is changing now. At that time we first look for people who are already in Myanmar. Second we looked for Myanmar people working abroad who wanted to come back and third foreign- ers. We have to train them only under few week schemes like how to serve and how to clean the rooms. We didn’t have to train much for English or willingness. It is the beauty of young generations of Myanmar. They are willing to learn. All training is done by our own trainers. For specific trainings, we invite our trainers from Accor Academy in Bangkok and Paris.
MI: Apart from staff training, how do you keep international reputation under the name of Novotal?
A very good question. I am listening careful- ly to what our guests are telling us and other daily customer feedbacks. I also searched from the internet, conduct customer surveys and read the comments from Facebook and other social media sites. When we see some good comments, I let the staff know about this message and tell them to continue like that. For the bad ones, I told my staff “Ok I understand that you tried your best but we still need improvement. So, lets’ try together”. And so, I give them more and more training.
MI: What is the biggest challenge you and your team face within these three years starting from the business?
For sure we had competitions to go through. We have to improve the quality of equip- ment and make sure that service is getting better and better. If you are once here, you would feel like you want to come back again. Definitely there will be higher and higher competitions.
MI: What you think are consequence for foreign companies coming into Myanmar.
There is always good and bad. The good is more career opportunities, better standard of living for everyone. The challenge is that I hope Myanmar will keep its thoughts be- cause the thoughts and culture in Myan- mar is so unique. It will be great Myanmar remains Myanmar. One specific bad point is the increase of consumption of plastic. For Tourism we need to protect our envi- ronment and maintain the nature like Inle Lake. We all should contribute to keep the city green by not using the plastic. We need to find a solution with all of our partner and suppliers as a foreign company.
MI: How about the market potential of Myanmar tourism business?
Huge potential. But we have to know that which type of clients we want in Myanmar. At the same time we have to take care that we do not let them bring many bad things here.
MI: Apart from Novotel, there are some international hotels that estab- lished in Myanmar, potential market, how are you competing with them?
The more international chains we have here, the more advertising will be done out- side. With large number of guests here, the image of Myanmar will get in such an inter- national big chain sending out very strong message to the world to come to Myanmar and see its beauties.
MI: If you could change one major government policy, what would it be?
Today we need help on trading especially importing. It is very difficult for us to get the supply we need. I know that Myanmar government is also working very hard on that part. I want to say it is one major thing I expect to change. The second point is edu- cation. I think in some successful countries the private sectors and government sector are working together to make sure that the training in schools is exactly what industries are required. That is what we are starting here now. Also it will be better here to ad- vance the infrastructures like communica- tion and transportation. We can see that the change is getting better and better.
MI: How are you enjoying your stay in Myanmar?
For me there are two things. During the traffic jam, I can see butterflies flying around my car. I have never seen like this before. It proves that Yangon Areas are still green. Second thing is the beautiful smiles of Myanmar. It is a refreshing. People’s eager to learn and their smiles make me really enjoy staying here.[/paypal]