IN DEPTH TALK ABOUT LIFE, CAREER AND ASPIRATIONS WITH THE GENERAL MANAGER OF THE DAMAI
CHRISTY GUNA DESA
Christy Guna Desa began his career in the hospitality industry back in 2003 when he took the role of Sports and Recreation Assistant Manager. In 2005 he relocated to Bali as he took up the role on the frontline of a resort as Assistant Reception Manager before moving on to Malaysia and Singapore and finally took on the role of a Hotel Manager for a hotel group in Singapore. His experiences in the frontline of the industry gave him the self-discipline and built a strong people-person character that propelled him to take on the role of General Manager of The Damai in Singaraja, North Bali.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, The Damai is an organic resort hidden in the unspoiled jungle-clad hills of Kayuputih village in Singaraja, North Bali. The resort offers 15 serviced villas, an award-winning restaurant and a spa. It has recently won the Asian Leading Resort’s Asian Lifestyle Tourism Award as Best Spa Destination in Indonesia and Best Honeymoon Destination in South East Asia.
You started your career in the hospitality industry in 2003, what inspired you to be a part of the industry?
The passion to serve and the ability to delight and wow guests from all over the world really inspired me to be a part of the industry. That feeling when a guest smiled after you wow them is the most amazing feeling ever.
Since you’ve started in the industry, it seems like you’re focusing yourself in the frontline of the industry, the Rooms Division - what motivated you to stay within the guest contact part of the industry for over 7 years?
I was blessed with the room division experience that came my way but it was early days in food and beverage, ladies shoe retail and sports recreation that really got me going. I still remember during my early school days when I was working in events and as a DJ to pay off my study loans as my parents couldn’t afford to do so. In that sense, the early service exposure got me really pumped on learning more on the service industry in which then lead me to the hotel industry.
During those times, what is the best highlight of your career?
To see the young and upcoming Indonesian that I’ve worked with that has gone on to become senior leaders and managers. I am very proud when the local Indonesians move up their career ladder to be the next leaders of the hospitality industry in Indonesia! An example of this is when my front desk associate represented Indonesia in the World receptionist competition in Germany and now a few years after she’s a manager in an international brand now! My heart is smiling when I am recollecting this.
You relocated to Bali in 2005 and obviously the vibe of Bali and Singapore is so different, how was it for you?
I have to say that I fell in love with the island’s mystic and magic aspects, Bali has such a remarkable attraction and positive spiritual aura. I am a strong believer in the religious aspect of the island.
Being away from the island for quite a while, what do you think of Bali’s hospitality industry today and what do you think it will be in the next 5-10 years?
I love the change and dynamism that’s happening on the island. The competition is beautiful and it’s bringing hospitality on a next level! Just look at the restaurants and bars that are opening up! Great times!
I do hope that in the next 5-10 years, the government keeps a strong control on hotel licenses. It’s out of control in certain parts of bali and I do worry that it will cause a major pricing war which will hurt the bottom line of a lot of hotels resulting in what I fear empty and abandoned buildings.
What attracted you to take on the role as the General Manager for The Damai?
I am blessed to have 2 excellent bosses in Mr. Perbo and Mr. Nils Normann. They have allowed me to share and showcase my experience and knowledge in making Damai as one of the property that can hold its own on the island. The moment I arrived in the property and saw the 3.7 hectares of land, I knew this property is magical and lots have transpired that has backed this up! I have a team that is constantly learning and willing to bring the business to the next level. I can confidently say that Damai’s approach towards the business and operation is comparable to any international brands out there!
The last few years of your career have placed you in a leadership role. Did you always want to be a GM? What’s next for you after this?
I always visualize it in the last 10 years but kept it to myself that I will keep driving till I get it. If you visualize and believe in it, the manifestation will take place. 2 years ago after I left the hotel company in Singapore, it made me hate the industry and I was unemployed for 8 months (doing freelance work) but I never stop visualizing that dream. It was just a matter of prayers and self-belief that the time will come and everybody has its own journey and mine just took a little longer.
I take each day as it comes and what’s important is to grow Damai as a brand. I am already blessed to be working in Bali and working with the best team.
With being a leader today, what best three characteristics do you think is important to you?
Humility, love for people and leadership. My life has taught me that you have to be humble in your approach and mindset in life. Continue to help and nurture the people around you and continue to keep giving as that makes you a better human being. Leadership by example is important when leading a team and always stand by them in good and bad times daily. That’s when the real respect is given!
If you were to choose a career other than hospitality, what would it be and why?
Military. I spent 3 years in Singapore as part of my national service and would have considered the military life as a career due to the regimental aspect and the discipline that comes with the job. I am a strong believer of one value that the army has taught me which is “Leadership is earned and never given and so it comes when you set an example to your people under you”!
Lastly, five things to do in Bali and why?
Beach, beach, beach, beach and more beach! When you have the luxury of being surrounded by pristine beaches, why not explore every single one of them?