Doing it for the kids: Hotelier of the Year21 December 2017
Flush from winning EHA's Hotelier of the Year Award for his work at Bali’s STEP Ubud Training Hotel, Niko Suyasa is still inspired by helping his students. He hopes his thoughtful approach to hospitality education – investing profi ts in education and focusing on environmental projects – will convince others to approach tourism more sustainably in future.
I felt so honoured to receive the Hotelier of the Year Award, and would like to again thank the European Hospitality Award judges. This is not because I felt I deserved the title, but because it raised awareness and support for STEP Ubud Training Hotel, and sustainable tourism generally.
I would have loved to have collected the award myself in London, but getting a passport and visa is difficult and expensive. Initially, I was really disappointed that I couldn’t be there, but, thinking more about the judges’ choice, I realised that the concept of sustainability that we have been working on in our small village was also valued by judges from all over the world. That realisation cheered me up a lot.
STEP stands for ‘sustainable tourism and education project’. We have 800 students, divided into three grades. The aim is to provide them with an affordable, high-quality education and enable them to get a job when they graduate. By combining students’ educations with a hotel that focuses on sustainability, our pupils gain various skills. Rather than sitting in a classroom, they get to serve actual guests and learn real skills as hotel workers.
For instance, our students are involved a lot in waste management and organic gardening to give them extra experience. Instead of just training them for the hotel industry, they also have a good understanding of the environment, so when they start work at a company they’ll be able to have a positive effect.
We also work to develop tolerance and intercultural exchange by working with international schools – which allows our students to understand different backgrounds – and offer our own local culture to them. Our guests also get a very authentic experience of Balinese life.
All this took a long time. STEP was built over a nine-year period, as volunteers and donations trickled in. In total, it cost about $250,000 to build eight guest rooms and a restaurant for up to 50 people. That might not sound like much, but that is more than I could earn as a teacher in 100 years. I’m so appreciative of those who donated to build STEP. Nowadays, we invest all the income we generate back into education, hoping to make it cheaper and better quality.
Now that we are safely set up, I spend a lot of my day teaching my 15–18-year-old students the basics in hospitality. They learn everything from how to keep food safely in the fridge to housekeeping and front-office work. Despite my students’ frequent blunders and lack of English, our guests are entranced by the kids, their enthusiasm and their bright smiles.
Looking to the future, I am overjoyed that the École Hôtelière De Lausanne has so generously offered to let me take three of their courses. Me? At one of the most famous schools of hospitality in the world? I would have never have imagined that opportunity, not in a million years. I am also incredibly excited for my students and hope that this award will lead to better opportunities for them.
Overall, I hope that more hotels like STEP will be established soon, and that they operate first and foremost for the well-being of the local community. We function based on the concept of fair trade, where everyone is treated equally, and rewarded based on whatever they’ve done. In short, I love this job, and want to spread my project around – moving step by step towards a better world for our generation.