Conversation with: Stephan Karl – General Manager of Andaz Singapore
By Vaishnavi Pumynathan & John Stanley Marsh
We have a conversation with Stephan Karl, General Manager of Andaz Singapore – Where Hospitality meets local Heritage, a symbol for an experience that is about welcoming the local people, their traditions and food to your table.
Q: Hello Stephan! You’ve had an exciting journey since your graduation from Heidelberg Hotel Management School. A veteran in the hospitality industry with over 24 years of experience, please share with us your early years and how you got started in this field?
Stephan: “During the holidays, I traveled to different countries with my family. We stayed at different hotels and the functions of hospitality were interesting to me. I was given a management traineeship opportunity to work in a five-star hotel located in the South of Germany and took it on without hesitation. That experience of working at a luxury hotel, the chance to work in different cities around the world, and being able to interact with people from all walks of life enticed me greatly.”
Q: You were previously appointed in Carlton Hotel St. Moritz, Andaz Mayakoba/Mexico, Park Hyatt Sydney and Park Hyatt Dubai to name a few. In the increasingly competitive hospitality industry, what has motivated you to carve out an illustrious career?
Stephan: “Hospitality has provided me with a humbling experience, plus many rewarding memories. I gained different knowledge and insights working in interesting cities. This also broadened my perspectives from wherever I choose to work. The intrinsic rewards gave me a great form of satisfaction, which is why I kept going and motivated other aspiring hoteliers to grow their careers in this meaningful path.”
Q: Tell us about your role as General Manager for Andaz Singapore. What’s a typical day like for you?
Stephan: “Each day is different for me, but I do have certain routines. I usually begin the day with a morning run near the hotel. Andaz Singapore is connected to a few scenic routes such as the Kallang Riverside Park and Marina Bay. After a refreshing run, I get organized and jot down my priorities for the day, followed by a walk around the hotel to interact with guests and associates. Lunch is usually in the hotel with my team or partners, where we discuss hotel operations or just catch up.”
Q: In addition to receiving the Hyatt Leadership Award for Americas in 2018, you are known for your warm and approachable style by your peers. How do you keep talented people on board and inspired to serve?
Stephan: “My mantra is to always listen more than I speak and this has served me well over the years. I have strived to listen while remaining open-minded and approachable, whether it is with peers, associates, or guests. People will always be our greatest assets, and I truly believe in Hyatt’s commitment to its purpose of caring for people so they can be their best. Care comes from a place of authentic human connection and understanding. We care by seeing people as unique individuals and getting to know them. When we genuinely care for the people, empowering and retaining them will come naturally.”
Q: Your career has taken you to diverse countries and multiracial teams. How has that played a role in your appreciation of people and cultures?
Stephan: “Since opening our doors over 60 years ago, Hyatt has worked hard to foster environments where people of all backgrounds feel welcome. I have gained a heightened sense of cultural sensitivity and am empathetic in conversations. I also keep an open heart and mind to various viewpoints. These build the foundation of the smooth working relationships I have established with my team, and it comes with trust built over time.”
Q: The hotel experience has evolved through the years. In general, how are guests’ expectations changing? What do they desire during their stay?
Stephan: “Guests’ expectations and behaviors are constantly evolving and especially during the pandemic. Luxury now means more than just well-appointed and designed accommodation. Our guests continue to appreciate flexibility and convenience at their fingertips. They are also more discerning about the options they have. To cater to different needs, we tend to offer bespoke experiences and services by connecting to our locale and community, encouraging our guests to explore what the city has to offer, while embracing innovation and technology, understanding the importance of not prescribing the same service while leaving a memorable experience for everyone who comes through Andaz Singapore’s doors.”
Q: Congratulations on winning this year’s Asia’s Best Awards in Singapore by Travel and Leisure. Can you share some of the significant specialties and services that Andaz Singapore offer to guests? Anything new we can look out for in the near future?
Stephan: “Andaz Singapore has been innovating and refreshing facilities, including culinary concepts and menus, since it opened its doors in 2017. From popular guest bartender shifts at Mr Stork rooftop bar to ever-changing themed high tea menus at Alley on 25, the hotel takes pride in introducing new and exciting F&B offerings to its guests. Following the challenges of the pandemic and in efforts to elevate its culinary offerings to greater heights, the hotel has introduced all-new concepts and experiences helmed by acclaimed chefs.
In January 2022, Andaz Singapore unveiled its first-ever Cantonese upscale dining concept, 5 ON 25, with exquisite creations by Head Chef Lim Hong Lih, formerly of the 1-Michelin-starred restaurant. In February 2022, the hotel’s premium steakhouse, 665°F, embarked on a new chapter with the opening of a new space, The Cellar, and a new Head Chef, Poh Boon Neo. Besides monthly special menus, diners can also enjoy thematic dining experiences such as appearances by guest chefs and special programs during Singapore’s Night Race.
The hotel is currently in its last phase of the renovation project and greatly anticipating to launch our refreshed guestrooms and suites as well as new changing rooms next to the swimming pool. While you are waiting for your room, you can visit the second floor, next to the entrance to view a freshly painted mural by local artist Danielle Tay. The art is a nod to our commitment to bring fresh perspectives and interesting partnerships to guests.”
Q: A stone throw away, what makes Kampong Gelam a memorable experience for business travellers, leisure tourists and local staycation seekers?
Stephan: “Kampong Gelam is a historical street teeming with culture and cuisines. Guests can visit the impressive Sultan Mosque and the Malay Heritage Centre, a must-visit for anyone interested in understanding Singapore’s Malay community. The alleyways are filled with trendy boutiques and a plethora of colorful dining options that range from Malay cuisine to Middle Eastern, Swedish or Italian.”
Q: What are some of your personal favourite Kampong Gelam spots you would like to recommend to our readers?
Stephan: “I would recommend Bali Lane and Haji Lane for guests to visit for accessible amenities and vibrant Instagram-worthy shots. During the day, they can admire the sprawling wall murals by talented artists. The streets are also home to authentic Indian and Malay cuisines as well as creative shops touting local apparel and crafts.”
5 Fraser Street