Managing anything is tough work, but what about managing a luxury resort in what is known as one of Bali’s most serene and beautiful hideaways? We sit down with Alain Bachmann, the general manager of The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah in Ubud to find out what it’s like to manage paradise.
It’s safe to assume you didn’t begin your career managing The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, how did you get your start?
[laughs] Unfortunately, that’s correct. I had always wanted to be a hotelier, but I suppose you could say it took some time to figure that out. I worked in both banking and the consumer branding world for quite some time before deciding I really needed to pursue my dream of becoming a hotelier, and so that’s what I did. I quit the corporate world altogether and enrolled at one of Switzerland’s finest hotelier schools–Les Roches.
And after graduating, that’s when you became the general manager of The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah right?
Not quite. I started off taking orders for room service at The Ritz-Carlton Kansas City as a part of my first traineeship, as they call it. While Kansas City wasn’t the place I had in mind, it was great to be involved early with a reputable company that provided great mentorship and training. After that, I graduated with my Associate Degree in Hotel Management and was invited back to the Ritz-Carlton, where my time was punctuated by my first hotel opening at The Ritz-Carlton Philadelphia. The role of Room Service manager soon turned into Food & Beverage Manager from where I was courted by The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago to join them as the Restaurant Manager of their fine dining venue. After receiving critical acclaim at Avenues with The Peninsula, I moved on to The Mandarin Oriental in Washington D.C., Anassa in Cyprus, back to The Ritz-Carlton—but this time in Moscow—The Grand Park Hotel in Gstaad, Switzerland and finally, before packing my bags and moving to Ubud as the General Manager of The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah, The Chedi Andermatt in Switzerland.
That’s a long list, any fond memories?
Moscow was both an exciting town, and hotel. As the social center of town, we welcomed many state guests, foreign dignitaries and Hollywood stars. From President Obama with his entire family (and 300 secret service agents!) to the Sultan of Brunei or the President of India, to Will Smith or Angelina Jolie: I was honored to serve them all.
And with such a resume, what had you interested in joining GHM?
Being a smaller company, yet still an industry leader in both design and service standards, GHM offered me a great balance as a General Manager with the appropriate amount of support from above and the necessary amount of independence from below. Having worked with quite large companies before, it was a different experience, and one that I was excited to take on.
And now that you’re here, what’s an average day like?
Well, none are the same to be honest, which is what makes my job so interesting! Most of my days revolve around the guests and doing everything in my power to make their stay the most flawless and unforgettable experience possible. Of course there are other more logistical tasks, but it’s my interaction with the guests that always remains constant.
Throughout the course of your busy days there must be challenges, but are there also things that make you sit back and think, ‘alright, this isn’t too bad?’
Oh, of course! Our guests, my team, and, every day, the beauty and uniqueness of Tanah Gajah Estate all always make me smile. The many loyal guests and conversations with them, my wonderful team of 145 dedicated and passionate professionals who truly care for their guests, and such a beautiful property that has such a magical ambiance.
Speaking of your wonderful team, what are some things you make sure all of your employees have, or are aware of?
A big smile, passion, dedication, and an eye for details; those are four musts for an employee here and they do a fantastic job of it. The Balinese have a gracious personality, a natural way of helping and assisting others in an elegant, modest, and humble way. They also have an excellent knowledge of the culture and places to see, making them the perfect concierges or tour guides. And all of them have a pride and a big smile in doing their job well—which can be rare nowadays.
What else have you picked up on in regards to the local cultures?
To my surprise, I have been adjusting quite well in Ubud. My team made me instantly feel welcomed and at home. It helps, of course, if you get to know the customs and traditions of the Balinese and take part in some of their ceremonies. Life is sometimes hectic and chaotic here for an organized Swiss person especially, but life here also comes with much warmth and many smiles, and at the end of the day, that makes it all worth it.
What are some of your favorite things about living in Ubud so far?
Ubud has a lot of beautiful places, temples, hidden gardens, terraces overlooking the rice fields, cafes, galleries, craft shops, excellent restaurants, and, on top of all that, the beaches aren’t far away! The people are friendly and helpful. It’s really all you could wish for as a foreigner living abroad.
So why should someone visit Ubud at The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah?
Ubud is the heart and soul of Bali and a visit to the island would be incomplete without visiting. It is the island’s center of culture and craftsmanship (wood, ceramic, glass), and a retreat to relax and enjoy (yoga, restaurants, the endless rice fields). It’s also one of those places which encompasses tradition unlike anywhere else in the world, with omnipresent celebrations, dances and cultural showings. From a hotel point of view, nothing like The Club Chedi Tanah Gajah has ever been built before. Being as fortunate as we are with the Hadiprana family’s cooperation, we have created a sanctuary that really is a home away from home—with a unique ambiance which no other hotel can offer. Lastly, as the only Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) hotel in Ubud, we offer some of the finest services and facilities on the island. Breathtaking estates and villas, personal butlers looking after the guests’ wishes and needs and a city unlike anything else on the planet, why shouldn’t someone visit?