Bangkok, Oriental: The Great Wachtveitl

On May 13th, 2010, posted in: News executives by

He has set new standards in hospitality industry, he can be referred to as the most successful hotelier in the world. Now he retires. We wish him a great time with his family.

At the same time we say welcome to Jan Goessing, the designated GM of The Oriental. Kurt Wachtveitl will retire after 42 years as General Manager of the hotel he had made famous: the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. For over four decades German born Kurt Wachtveitl had set new standards for the global hotel industry.

When I was an aspiring travel writer, some 25 years ago, I travelled to Bangkok to meet “Khun Kurt”. He was already a legend. It was the time of the first Institutional Investor’s ratings. From now on, thousands of travel writers, hotel managers and hospitality industry related people from all over the world flocked to Bangkok to meet the legendary hotelier, to stay at his hotel, to – at least – sneak into the lobby and breath for a moment the air of The Oriental. The “best hotel in the world”!

We all arrived to find out how he did “it”? We found him in the lobby. Usually in the early evenings. He chatted with his guests. He smiled most of the time. He knew he was on stage. While other hotel managers started hiding in their offices, Wachtveitl came out. He was always available.

In his first years at The Oriental, you would find him at the cashier’s desk, early in the morning, at checkout time. That’s where he overheart guests complaints. First hand. This was the place to be, to react, to sooth ruffled feelings. Once I asked him: “How did you do it?”. He answered seriously: “We tell our staff exactly what to do;” and continued with a smile “and after two weeks, we tell them again.”

The Importance of being Honest In cooperation with our organisation, famoushotels.org, Wachtveitl was largely responsible that The Oriental has achieved its unique position as a legendary historic hotel in the Far East. His interest was to establish a verified history of The Oriental, to clean up all rumours and false legends and to establish a perfectly collated history of his hotel. famoushotels.org is the “house-historian” of The Oriental since 1994. We answer about 200 requests concerning the history of The Oriental per year.

Besides constantly pushing The Oriental to establish state-of-the-art technologies and amenities, Wachtveitl made the hotel’s rich history one of its unique selling points, and encouraged famoushotels.org year after year to continue our research into the history of his hotel. We still unearth new material every year and are currently preparing the next edition of this successful book.

In our book about the hotel’s history we were able to unveil some of the secrets of Wachtveitl’s management style. He has passed on much of his knowledge to an endless list of junior assistant managers, resident managers and to the rest of his team. The Oriental was – and is – one big hotel management school (not only because of OHAP, the hotel’s own trainee programme). Some of the secrets, Wachtveitl will take with him. Smiling, in the tradition of the country that has been such a wonderful stage for him. And what a performance we had witnessed! We take a deep bow. Andreas Augustin www.famoushotels.org

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