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How do you organise a paradise
To the south of the city of Semarang is the picturesque Balemong Resort. A tiny paradise with three hundred year-old buildings stuffed with antiques, comfortable and attractively designed rooms and a swimming pool with a view across the sawas and mountains.
Edward Verhoeven is the son of the founder. “This resort was established by my parents in 2005 with the aim of preserving the Javanese culture, colonial heritage and antiques for future generations. Neither I nor my parents have any background in the hospitality industry. We are in fact lawyers. That is why we needed assistance from the experts from PUM.”
Hotel management expert Maarten van Wijk arrived in June 2017, identified the areas that needed improvement and issued his recommendations. In March 2018 he returned to evaluate the results and on that basis offer additional advice. Missions of this kind not only call for subject knowledge but also specific character traits.
‘Customer satisfaction improved by leaps and bounds’
Edward continued, “Maarten van Wijk is a typical hotelier. He laughs readily, and delivers a great deal of energy to the management. It was excellent to have him here. Initially the local staff were intimidated by the arrival of a foreign expert. Maarten van Wijk, however, is down to earth which enabled him to bring his good vibes and energy to this location. He taught us effective meeting skills, helped us write standard procedures and surveyed customer satisfaction. We made a number of changes to the layout, above all in the rooms. For example, we changed most of the lighting, and the results were very worthwhile. He was absolutely right. Customer satisfaction improved by leaps and bounds. Customers who previously found the atmosphere somewhat oppressive now said the resort spread a sense of warmth. We are generating more income; the organisation is more stable and we have a sound management structure.”
In the words of PUM expert Maarten van Wijk, “When you first arrive at the Balemong Resort, you feel you are in an open air museum. The setting is idyllic. The Joglos that house the 53 hotel rooms, the restaurant and the banquet facilities are surrounded by a magnificent tropical garden. A Joglo is a 100-150 year-old house, produced from dark tropical hardwood, and built in the past by wealthy Javanese. The majority of these Joglos were in a very poor condition but have now all been restored. The woodcarvings and the colours are magnificent works of art. Sometimes, however, they are less than perfectly functional. This is now becoming clearer, with higher occupancy rates, more food and beverage activities and many more parties and weddings. A typical Javanese wedding can easily mean 500+ guests!
‘They are keen to learn, understand the hospitality business better and think ahead’
Cooperation with the owner was fabulous. They are keen to learn, understand the hospitality business better and think ahead. I offered them a detailed 5-year plan. I am proud to say that everyone at Balemong is delighted with the upturn in business. The sales and marketing department is already seeing their new methods bear fruit. The operational staff are able to implement what they have just learned. The maintenance department has its hands full, and is working hard on PM! ( Preventive Maintenance Plan). We have worked together on a whole range of tasks that are more or less self-evident for us hotel professionals, and yet for the whole of the Balemong staff often eye-openers! They lack much of even the most basic knowledge. There are few schools with a good hospitality curriculum (in central Java).”
Maarten van Wijk (65) attended the higher hotel school in The Hague. Almost his entire family is (or has been) employed in the hospitality industry. After more than 30 years in America, where he occupied a series of positions in the hotel segment, he returned to the Netherlands in 2015. He now offers his services as a PUM expert for the hospitality sector. Maarten has completed 6 PUM missions.