Interview with John Burger – Finalist for General Manager of the Year
The BMW Hotelier Awards sat down with John Burger, Cluster General Manager for Hilton Hotels and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotels in the Shenzhen area. We enjoyed hearing about the teachings he has taken from his mentors, team members and travels between various cultures and how this has enriched his career.
Can you give us a brief insight into your education and career path?
I was actually supposed to get into computer programming, which wasn’t very well known in the 1980s, but one day my father approached me and asked if I would consider getting into the hospitality industry. It transpired that he had been talking to my godfather, whom owned MARKUM Hotel in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He saw that I had a talent and would enjoy the hospitality industry, as I use to help out on the long weekends when I visited them from boarding school.
This turned out to be an easy direction for me, as I was enrolled into the Wits Hotel School in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the eleventh hour with the help of my uncle. Here, I completed my Diploma in General Hotel Management. After the completion of my first internship, I started another one which offered me the position of Junior F&B Duty Manager, followed by a dream to work abroad. This dream came to life, as I took on the role of Director of F&B before embarking on my first career abroad in the Seychelles Islands.
My profession then took me to Malaysia, China, Vietnam, South Korea and Singapore. I returned to China and have been working here for the past nine years. During this time, I have completed three hotel openings in Kunshan, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. I have been in Shekou for the past four years and I am now in the process of opening another building, which used to be the old Nanhai Hotel in Shekou. I am sure that this will be my last opening as I want to concentrate on my passion – running a hotel.
Can you share with us what you feel has been the most valuable part in your career development to date that has enabled you to get to where you are today?
There are many things that one draws both experience and inspiration from. I have taken valuable lessons from every part of my journey so far and continue to do so. From hotel openings, I have learnt to have a vision and to plan ahead. From working in different parts of the world, I have had my eyes opened to cultural sensitivity and the way it impacts ones’ management style, directing staff and understanding guests’ requirements. I have had some wonderful mentors along the way and have been enriched by my fellow colleagues and team members. Every time I visit a hotel or restaurant, I learn something valuable in which I can take to improve myself or my own operations. People are at the heart of our operations and they are the ones that make it all happen. I have learnt from just about each person I have ever worked with, which has helped me get to where I am today.
Congratulations on being a finalist in The BMW Hotelier Awards 2016. How are you planning on leveraging this opportunity to inspire the younger generation to work harder at developing their career in the hospitality scene?
There are many awards nowadays and for me the important accolades are the ones that have great partners, who share the same values. The BMW Hotelier Awards represent all the values that I believe in. I will use this platform to show my team that, integrity is a virtue that goes a long way and when one has dreams they should pursue them and never give up. I would also like to help spread the word. Throughout my career, I have always been inspired by my mentors and fellow peers for what they have achieved and stood up for. As a result, I would like to do the same and communicate that, if one works hard then these things can happen to ordinary people. There are many unsung heroes, who just need a ray of hope or a bit of luck and sometimes you can help shape people’s futures as well as having a big say in your own destiny. I believe success breeds success and provides much hope!