His previous achievement in Hilton Pattaya speaks for itself – and he expects to do the same with the great team at Conrad Bangkok.
By Percy Roxas
Harald Feurstein, general manager (GM) of Conrad Bangkok, says he is living the dream. “I can describe what makes a hotelier’s job so satisfying in so many ways but I think the fact that no day is ever the same in this job pretty much sums it,” he says. “I realized early that there are some great opportunity to build a career, work with interesting people, travel and explore different cultures in this industry. And I like that there’s never a dull moment indeed.”
“Being a hotelier is not always fun,” the 45-year-old GM continues, “but when you’ve been doing this for a long time, you can ‘t imagine what else you would want do. It just becomes a passion you want to consistently pursue.
“I mean, maybe saying that I’m living the dream sounds like an exaggeration. Truly, being a hotelier is hard work and sometimes we even have to forego lots of important occasions we would have loved to be part of. But then we get to do a lot of fun things and enjoy personal growth along the way.”
Like most hoteliers lucky enough to be assigned in Thailand, Harald thinks the kingdom is a fantastic place to live and work in, and not just because he’s working for Conrad Bangkok. The award-winning luxury hotel is not only one of the best convention hotels in Thailand, with one of the largest leisure and support facilities among hotels in similar category, but also has built a reputation for a nurturing working environment.
Being at Conrad Bangkok and in Thailand enhances his enjoyment of being a hotelier. “There are lots of opportunities to do different things here,” he continues. “The people are great, and in general the lifestyle and quality of life is very, very good compared to many countries around us.”
Harald’s career has spanned three continents, starting in his native Austria where he launched his career as a waiter and bartender and slowly climbed up the ranks. He became a GM at 39.
Harald has worked in Europe, Africa, and Asia holding various positions: F&B operations, business development, sales and marketing, and revenue management. He has been assigned to China, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. Most recently, he was GM of Hilton Pattaya (in 2011).
Hilton Pattaya was his initiation in the kingdom, and what an initiation it was.
“I had a fabulous time in Pattaya,” Harald says. “Being the opening GM of Hilton Pattaya presented a very exciting challenge, one that worked really well because it became very successful. Hilton Pattaya is a great story for any hotel but I also really enjoy living in Pattaya. I really enjoyed my stay there, because against common belief, it has a lot more to offer than the obvious.”
Residing in Bangkok since January this year, Harald left Pattaya not because he wanted to, but because this great opportunity — becoming GM of Conrad Bangkok — came along.
How does he describe his first 10 months at Conrad Bangkok? “Personally, it was a very easy move for me because, in my career, I’ve never just moved one-and-a half hour on the road. Normally relocations involve different countries, different continents, and different shipping containers. This time, we just threw our suitcases into a truck and we’re off. It’s very good because it was easy to settle in. It allowed us a much quicker start in the hotel. No surrounding issues exist, which allowed me to do what I wanted to do very quickly so that in just 10 months we’ve already made some inroads and laid the foundation of what’s to come.”
“A hotel lifestyle is different from those in other industries,” he adds. “We spend most of our time in the hotel but that’s great in itself and can be lots of fun. It’s also very challenging both personally and professionally. But having said that, we obviously also take time off as well. We do have hobbies. Thailand offers so much; it’s a beautiful country to explore.”
Harald loves to go out of town and whenever there’s a long weekend, he and his wife use the opportunity to get away.
“My wife and I have explored quite a lot of Thailand now. We’ve been different places that tourists would pay a lot of money to experience, and which we have the privilege to explore in our own time and in a much easier manner. We don’t have to spend a lot of money to come and visit an interesting part of this country. We can just hop into a car on a weekend. We do just that, and it’s really cool.”
These out-of-town trips also give Harald an opportunity to engage in another passion: photography. “My wife and I enjoy photography as a past time, on the amateur level of course. We spend a lot of time doing just this and it’s really, relaxing. Photography is something I really enjoy, aside from the fact that I exercise a lot and run marathons.” Harald has in fact run all over Thailand.
Harald loves that even this personal passion for sports and exercise can easily blend with his chosen career. “I recently ran during Mother’s Day weekend and almost 30 people in the hotel came along, making the occasion a virtual team-building activity,” he says. “It’s exciting to do some fun stuff with the people you work with, with the team. And that’s something very easily done in Thailand.”
Enjoying the destination where he lives in at the moment is something Harald always does. “I’m very adaptable in both in my personal and professional lives. I always explore new things. When I live in the Philippines, I was scuba diving all the time because it is right there at my doorsteps. I just jump in the water and dive.”
In Bangkok, Harald and his wife make an effort to find new places as much as they can. “We try to see what else is out there, because really – in Bangkok — there’s just so much. There’s no place like Bangkok in this regard,” he says. “We explore a new bar, a new restaurant, or a new place here and there at least twice or thrice a month. Visiting these places is also good on the professional level, because they keep on inspiring me on maybe how we could do things a bit differently at the hotel. It’s always good to get some new ideas.”
Being new at Conrad Bangkok, he understandably can’t speak much about achievements yet, but his achievement in his previous assignment in Hilton Pattaya speaks for itself. “It was the first hotel opening that I was allowed to lead as GM and I basically built it to what it is today. Obviously it’s not a one-man thing, and I was blessed to have a great team with me. It’s the team they made it work. I’m sure we can do the same for Conrad Bangkok, because I also have a great team here.”