“It’s not a taboo anymore. Everybody can talk about it,” declares Nils Arne-Schroeder, Regional General Manager – Indonesia & Timor Leste, DoubleTree by Hilton Jakarta-Diponegoro, of his company’s support for the Indonesian Breast Cancer Foundation and the second Pink Ribbon Gala.
More and more brands in the hospitality industry are carrying out CSR initiatives that engage their guests in social activities and target support to specific communities. By establishing an active partnership with one or more foundations, hotels have the power to become a formidable force for good. For example, DoubleTree by Hilton Jakarta Diponegoro actively supports the Pink Ribbon Campaign of the Indonesian Breast Cancer Foundation (YKPI).
Nils Arne-Schroeder, Regional General Manager – Indonesia & Timor Leste, DoubleTree by Hilton Jakarta-Diponegoro, has nearly 30 years of experience, of which 20 were spent with Hilton. He was previously General Manager of Hilton Beijing Wangfujing, which he opened just before the 2008 Summer Olympics. Under his leadership, the hotel won numerous accolades. Highlights of an exclusive interview with Prestige:
DoubleTree by Hilton Jakarta is involved in a lot of charity initiatives. Tell us the thinking behind it all.
It’s because we really want to be a part of the community, not only in Jakarta but also in Indonesia. Our biggest project is our “Pink Month” every October to support the breast cancer survivors and warriors. Which we are now going into for the third year. It feels close to my heart and it’s really something that I’m passionate about. I think we’ve been doing a good job for this campaign and, hopefully, with the second Pink Ribbon Gala this month, we will paint Jakarta pink.
Where’s the connection between hospitality and philanthropy?
It’s actually part of our business. Ultimately, we are working with a lot of young team members and they need a sense of purpose. Our team members are now mostly the millennials and they like to work with organisations having a sense of purpose, and of course they want to work with a leadership who truly believe in CSR. They are very keen to know what they can do for the community, and they are excited to work with an organisation that’s passionate about this subject. I’ve seen big changes in the last 10 years. Our team members are very much involved and willing to spend their time, even when they are not on duty, for a good cause.
How do you keep up with the YKPI’s progress?
When we first met with them two years ago, we had a really wonderful conversation. Ibu Linda Gumelar really expressed her concerns about the lack of awareness of the threat of breast cancer. Then I spoke to my team members, and nobody had had gone to the doctor for a check-up. It was kind of like a taboo. Nobody was aware of how to get checked and nobody wanted to talk about it. But it’s not a taboo anymore. Everybody can talk about it and be aware that there’s a real threat, so that they need to get checked regularly. They share their stories now, and so on. I think Ibu Linda and her team received a wonderful contribution from our Pink Ribbon Gala last year. Hopefully, it will be even better this year, to make sure they can take this campaign beyond Jakarta and go into rural areas where the awareness of breast cancer prevention is still very low. It’s a first small step, but it’s our job to make those small steps go somewhere further – with the help of government, media partners like Prestige and by helping raising awareness within the community.
“I would be very proud to look back and say that I was part of this, at least in the beginning. This is not my journey, it’s everyone’s journey around us”
What other CSR projects are you working on?
One of our major objectives is to minimise the use of plastics. This is a really big issue, not only in Indonesia but the whole world. We have just introduced reusable glass bottles in our suite hotels in Bali. We’re very pleased about that because it actually saves us 500,000 bottles every year – from our suite hotels in Bali alone. We also work with the Bye Bye Plastic Bag organisation and help them to build a new building and facility for the ladies who are making wonderful bags out of T-shirts and old clothes. We are creating an opportunity for them to have a job and to do something for the environment as well.
What do you think will be the most important issues in the CSR area s in the next 15 years?
I think it would be ownership for people to take action. You can’t change the world as an organisation, but if you pick and choose something that’s really close to your heart, I think you can make a difference. We were just starting by helping to raise awareness about breast cancer. The progress is now, it’s not a taboo anymore here, I believe. But it’s all just the beginning and we have to be consistent about it. We hope to continue this journey with the YKPI. The long-term success would be just priceless for the people to see in the years to come. And I would be very proud to look back and say that I was part of this, at least in the beginning. This is not my journey, it’s everyone’s journey around us, whom we touched their heart and they are able to join us and make it even more successful. I think hopefully that will come in the next five, 10 to 15 years.
What sets Hilton apart from other hotel brands?
We have a really personal touch and a care culture. We really do care about our team members because they are devoting their lives working for us and making guests satisfied with their stay in the hotel. We also have a culture of really looking after our community surround us. We recently hosted a “Rainbow Troops” dinner to honour the public workers who keep our streets clean and our parks safe, and it’s a privilege to be able to do this with them. What’s also great is that our team members were really excited to make this happen and wanted to be there. Even if their shift was over, they still wanted to stay until dinner. So many team members supported that event. I think it’s really the culture that we have in our team members that ultimately transfers to our guests, and so they can really feel that they are taken good care of.
What’s a typical day like for you?
There’s never a same day for a GM. You always have a different agenda. I’m running an operation that’s open 24/7, so we’re having hundreds of customers served by hundreds of our team members every day. We have thousands of touch points where team members meet customers. Managing that is, of course a big task, a task that brings a lot of enjoyment as well as challenges – all at the same time. DoubleTree by Hilton Jakarta Diponegoro is a leisure hotel, a lifestyle hotel. We have guests who are coming here for business and there are some who are here to get married! So there’s many reasons why our customers come here and that makes it really special because every occasion is different. And I truly enjoy what I do, every day.