Name: Sven Walter
Position title: General Manager – Centara Watergate Pavillion Hotel Bangkok
Company name: Centara Hotels & Resorts
When and why did you join the industry?
My career in hospitality started in 1987 as an apprentice in the kitchen. Actually the plan was to become an Electronics engineer; however, after my two older brothers have both decided to become a chef, I did go for a one-week practical training to see what it is all about. This one-week was enough to change my plan and so I signed up for a three-year apprenticeship.
What do you like most about your job?
Whenever you put effort and heart into your work, you immediately can collect the feedback, from internal and external guests likewise that I find very rewarding. It’s what keeps you striving to do better and better every day.
What’s one of the biggest achievements of your career so far?
I can’t call one particular one; however, whenever I was able to identify a talent and push this person to become better in knowledge, skills and personality, able to climb up the ladder – even if that meant one day leaving for a better offer – I felt this is a great achievement and there is no better reward.
What’s the best advice ever given to you and who gave it?
While I have met many personalities that I admire for what they do and what they are, it is my first management post in Georgia with Sheraton as Food & Beverage Manager, where the GM showed me that the key for success is to remain humble, caring for others, and to keep my feet on the ground.
Who do you admire and see as a role model in the industry?
There are many remarkable colleagues and leaders in our industry that have set milestones, and you don’t have to look too far. Working for Centara Hotels & Resorts, our Chairman Khun Suthikiati Chirathivat certainly belongs in this category, having been able to grow over the years to the biggest Thai hotel group and continuing to expand domestically and internationally to a well recognized and appreciated brand, constantly promoting its trademark of Thai hospitality.
What can people expect from your company and what sets it apart from the rest?
Centara Hotels & Resorts has been able to establish itself as a symbol for genuine Thai hospitality. This deeply rooted company culture is core of what we like to achieve, with a dedicated team that understands these values, and to ensure each of our guests are nurtured with the same care across all Centara hotels.
What destinations are on your travel bucket list?
There are so many destinations and beautiful places I’d like to visit; Raja Ampat for diving, Argentina on a horse, Patagonia for climbing, Ireland to have a beer in a pub, Stockholm to enjoy a weekend at leisure, Pai in northern Thailand for trekking… but the list goes on and on…
What’s a memorable travel experience you’ve had (good or bad)?
On one flight via Paris where a strike of cabin crews penalized most of the airport, I had to convince a check-in personnel to let me pass with a “hand luggage” of 29 kg of which a charming French lady luckily let me pass. For obvious reasons I will not tell you which airline that was; however, it was a big relief and certainly a very positive experience.
What are three things you always take with you when travelling?
My running shoes, a book and my laptop…
Name someone famous you’d like to travel with and a destination you’d like to go with them.
I guess a drive with Elon Musk in a Tesla on U.S. route 101 could be quite an interesting ride…
What direction do you see the industry heading in over the next five to ten years?
Our industry is exposed constantly to new trends and circumstances that require us to adapt and change the way we are thinking. Technology will continue to evolve such as introduction of self-service and mobile check-in, or transformation of traditional lobby’s from more single-use areas into multifunctional spaces interchangeably used for meetings, working alone, or dining.
However, whatever the changes are, it only can be successful with the customer in the centre of everything. And that will never change.