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Everyday Stories: Challanges in Paradise

Printscreen from Tripadvisor April 2024

Nestled in the world's largest volcanic lake lies a quaint island as large as Ibiza or Singapore. This unique island is home to the indigenous Batak people and our one-of-a-kind hotel. It's a place that spoils visitors with breathtaking views and provides service above and beyond what one might expect from an island retreat far from any major city.

However, what appears effortless and relaxed to our guests is behind the scenes at our hotel a daily adventure...

Western Standards in the Heart of North Sumatra

To be honest, meeting the expectation of true Western standards here is a significant challenge. In theory, it's possible; in practice, it's a rollercoaster ride full of surprises. Every day, we face the task of meeting the expectations of our international guests while navigating the unique local conditions.

A major stumbling block, frankly, is the language barrier, as few Indonesians here, and probably in most places, speak English fluently. What should be a simple taxi ride from the airport can turn into an adventure 🫣, and thankfully, we have our own transport service with a driver 😀. This was a measure we took after the coronavirus pandemic, as a lot of know-how and knowledge were lost during that time, still significantly impacting industries like hospitality and tourism! Unfortunately, this is a fact some successfully ignore, but denial doesn't solve problems, so we create our own solutions! For example, we launched our own airport shuttle service 👍.

Or imagine this scene: A guest asks for an "extra pillow" and instead might receive an "extra billow"; an additional breeze blowing through an unexpectedly opened window or door.

The language barrier often leads to humorous misunderstandings, and we find ourselves balancing between cultures and languages, which can also create very warm situations! 😘

Humor and a Genuine Smile

Humor and a genuine smile are essential tools for us, and continuous education is key to success. Our commitment to training our staff is intense and relentless. It requires a deep understanding of Western service quality and operational procedures that go beyond what local management could achieve. Therefore, we rely on a mix of local and Western experience in our management team to ensure every aspect of our hotel meets our standards. This allows us to offer the high quality and service our international guests appreciate because, from past experiences, we've learned that purely local management is not sufficient to meet our set standards.

We invest a lot of personal and monetary energy into our staff. Indonesia, being the largest economy in Southeast Asia, has a very young population, which impacts many aspects of social and economic life. We mostly try to see this with humor, as with youth comes a charming inexperience: The idea of being on time in the morning can be more of a friendly suggestion than a firm rule for some. We work tirelessly to create structures that promote discipline while appreciating the creative energy of our young workforce.

Constant Training

Our staff operate in an environment that challenges them and any leader. Acting as a Western leader here sometimes requires nerves as robust as steel cables, especially when it comes to managing one or another unexpected situation. In my opinion, running a hotel in this region is like an intense life school, and much is a matter of perspective!

Our mission is to not only preserve our paradise but also to offer our visitors unforgettable experiences. While we may not always achieve the perfect Western standard, we do our best to ensure guests leave with positive memories. At Zoé's Paradise Waterfront Hotel on Samosir Island, our guests receive not just a vacation but often a symbolic bouquet of unique experiences.

Zoé, after whom our hotel is named, will be visiting us in July before returning to Switzerland until the next visit. She will soon be 15 and is preparing for her career choice in Switzerland. Warm regards from Mama Zoé, as I am called here.

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