Marc Steinmeyer: Building Hotels with Creativity and Innovation

WHEN most foreign investors did not believe in Indonesia’s potential during the financial crisis, Marc Steinmeyer left the Accor group at the peak of his career and reinvented himself as an entrepreneur in Indonesia.

He built a hotel management company Tauzia and established international-standard budget hotels. His unique concept of a budget hotel has created a unique market of its own. The Frenchman, born in Marseille 57 years ago, has extensive experience in the hotel business spanning over 20 years.

Marc Armand Georges Steinmeyer started his career as a consultant in development for hotel and tourism in Nicaragua after graduating from the Glion International School of Hotel & Tourism, Switzerland, in 1979.

He had also held the position of chief executive for Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia operating and developing 30 hotels for Softel, Novotel, Mercure and Ibis between 1993 and1998. At the height of his career as regional vice president for Accor group in Asia, including India and the Philippines, he resigned.

His reason for resigning was quite simple: He wanted to become an entrepreneur. When he was director and brand consultant of Académie Accor, he led the human resources department for 150 hotels belonging to Mercure Europe. He conducted management training as well as taught the spirit of entrepreneurship to the employees. “It’s hard to become an entrepreneur when one is still working as an employee,” he said. Another reason was retirement.

“In Europe we retire at the age of 65, I don’t like that. I want freedom, that’s why I stopped my professional career,” he said. He wanted to have his own company with new and different products. Steinmeyer established PT Tauzia Business Development in October 2000, a company dealing in the hospitality and leisure industry. Instead of China, India and Thailand, he chose Indonesia as the base for his company.

He likes India, but he was worried the country’s bureaucracy in the property business may have a negative effect on his company’s cash flow. On the other hand, although at that time not many foreign investors were interested in Indonesia, he felt that he was familiar with the country and the people; he likes its culture and at the same time loves living here. “Indonesia is like a sleeping treasure!” emphasized Steinmeyer whose hobby is traveling. His travels have even taken him to Ushuaia, a small town in Argentina, “the southernmost city in the world” with a population of only 64,000. Indonesia was more advanced in the property business, said Steinmeyer.

In his opinion, if the businessman is a good developer, well-organized and has a good partner, then it only takes between 18 and 24 months for the business to run smoothly. Room for improvement is still as good as 10 years ago.

In August 2001 PT Tauzia Hotel Management was born to manage a number of hotels bearing the brand Harris Hotel and Pop! Hotel as well as other properties.

Tauzia is one of thousands of species of oak trees that is a favorite of Steinmeyer; one of which is in the yard of his home in Marseille and is 250 years old. Steinmeyer’s dream is to have a large, strong and lasting Tauzia.

His innovative hotel concept developed quickly, because among other things Harris Hotel reflects the new democratic era of Indonesia. The father of three and the husband of Zaleha, Steinmeyer has set the following concept for Harris: unique, simple and friendly, targeting the new middle-class Asians. Everywhere Harris always appears dynamic, youthful, and fresh, with its signature electric orange color.

Albeit a budget hotel, said Steinmeyer, Harris is more than the usual four-star hotel. Its minimalist style, cleanliness, warmth and modernity have become a trendsetter for Indonesia’s hotels. Although he had a concept, Steinmeyer did not have enough funds to build Harris, as at least $10 million was needed at the time to build a hotel.

He offered hotels that had gone bankrupt due to the 1998 financial crisis to join as investors. With his extensive experience and network during his time in Accor, he managed to find an investor for the first Harris in Tuban, Bali; Harris Batam Waterfront, now the hotel in Batam with the highest occupancy; and Harris Tebet, which was previously called Hotel Quality.

According to Steinmeyer, his credibility and reputation played a bigger role than money although it has not been easy to find a suitable partner because the concept for hotel Harris is unusual, like no breakfast or free Wi-Fi.

The name Harris is Steinmeyer’s personal choice because it is simple, funny, out of the box and popular in Indonesia. “Harris can be pronounced easily by anyone, including by the French people,” he added. Harris could also be a name originating from any religion or race. This kind of diverse meaning is in line with his dream to combine the Indonesian and European mindsets and management style for his hotels.

Tauzia provides technical assistance for the implementation of the concept and the hotel management. “Tauzia not only acts as hotel operator but fully understands the property business and while not investing it can provide advice on legal matters and the best financial institutions,” explained Steinmeyer.

Next to Harris and Pop! Hotels the latest products for the youth segment or the “smart and eco-friendly traveler”, Tauzia has also started to manage luxury hotels bearing the brand WorldHotels and Preference. Steinmeyer hopes that soon he can have a hotel of his own, one that he builds himself.

However, he is conservative about the growth of his business. His target is between five and 10 hotels per year and that each major city in Indonesia should have Harris or Pop!.

Currently, there are already 56 hotels; there will be 60 hotels by the end of 2011 and between 70 and 80 hotels at the end of 2012. In the future, Steinmeyer wants to focus more and to be more selective on partners and locations. “Quality is more important than quantity,” he said.

It is undeniable that for the past two years his company has built a strong Harris market. “Other hotels are watching us, following us and waiting for the next Harris,” he said. “That is the importance of being consistent.”

Today the market is addicted to the Harris concept, and has started to imitate its system, standard and even its electric orange color. Steinmeyer is not worried at all, “Competitors are necessary, it stimulates the fighting spirit!” he stressed.

His principle is to meet the market demand but to keep Harris and Pop! growing. Tauzia will also expand these brands outside Indonesia, especially in Asia. “We have received requests from China and India, but I must do things step-by-step,” he concluded. (Lily Glorida Nababan)

The Jakarta Post, November 19, 2011

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