At the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, we are proud of our Alumni. Our former students have gone on to do amazing things in the industry, and Chris Franzen is no exception.
Last year, Hyatt announced his appointment as the General Manager of Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel & Residences, and Vice President, Western India. In this role, Chris oversees 10 different Hyatt hotels across the region.
Originally from the Swiss village of Zermatt, Chris comes from a long line of hoteliers. He’s been passionate about hospitality all his life.
“I was raised and went to school in the Swiss Alpine village of Zermatt, at the foot of the famed mount Matterhorn. With only 5,500 permanent inhabitants in the car-free village, there are over 125 hotels in operation! I am also a third-generation hotelier, with my grandfather and father also having been in the trade.
I completed my Bachelor of Business in Hospitality in 1999 and before that I completed my Chef Apprenticeship and got my Sommelier degree. I am married to Rachel, an Australian national, and we have two kids, Ashley (13) and Lex (10) who were both born in Dubai.”
Before his appointment with Grand Hyatt Mumbai, Chris worked for more than six years as the General Manager of the luxurious Hyatt Doha Hotel and Villas in Qatar. During his time there, his hotel team was selected for the Donald N. Pritzker Award for Hotel Team of the Year, and he was selected for the Jay A. Pritzker Award for Leadership.
Under his leadership, the Hyatt Doha Hotel and Villas became known for providing exceptional customer experience, as a luxury hotel and spa.
During this time, the hotel won a range of prestigious awards, including; the 2015 World Travel Awards Middle East (Qatar’s Leading Luxury Hotel Villa), the 2015 World Luxury Spa Awards (Best Luxury Hotel Spa Qatar), the 2014 Qatar Tourism Authority Hotels Quality Standards Award, the 2014 World Luxury Spa Awards (Best Luxury Hotel Spa Qatar), and the 2012 Business Traveller Awards Middle East (Best Business Hotel).
“I am very passionate about the perfect guest experience and ensuring we look after our colleagues: one does not go without the other. My biggest passion was always in the culinary sector, which meant I started as a Chef and then Sommelier before I went to hotel school.”
Over his career, Chris has worked across many different areas of the industry, from boutique hotels and restaurants to large international companies.
“I bring with me over thirty years of experience; having worked in Europe, the US, Australia, Russia and the Middle East before joining in India. I have also worked for other global hotel operators and luxury boutique hotels over the years, that include: the Gourmet Restaurant Glashof in Zug, the Hilton Hotel in Zurich, Kofler & Kompanie in Germany, the luxury boutique hotel The Inn on Fifth in Naples, Florida, and the Hotel Kurrajong in Canberra, Australia.”
Chris’ diverse experience across hospitality means he can bring a holistic perspective to his General Manager role. He understands what makes for effective service in every aspect of the business, from the Kitchen to the Executive Office. Driven by his passion for the guest experience, he has won several awards, including the Business Excellence Award in 2017.
Initially, Chris intended to go to hotel school in Switzerland. However, life had other things in store for him, and he ended up on the other side of the world.
“First, I wanted to go to a Swiss hotel school, but they were not willing to extend credits for my experience and education. I, therefore, opted to go to a hotel school that did take my experience into account and at the same time offered excellent education! My biggest challenge at first definitely was the language barrier I had to overcome.”
As often happens in the industry, Chris worked his way up within Hyatt to his current position, moving across roles and locations as he progressed in his career.
“I started my Hyatt career as Revenue Manager at the Hyatt Regency Dubai, followed by other appointments at the Grand Hyatt Muscat in Oman, the Park Hyatt Moscow in Russia, the Grand Hyatt Dubai in the UAE, and the Grand Hyatt Doha Hotel & Villas in Qatar.
In my current role, I am looking after ten hotels, ranging from select service to luxury and lifestyle brands. The hotels I am looking after are in such exotic destinations as Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Pune, Hampi, Raipur and Lucknow.”
While loving the challenge and adventure of an international lifestyle, Chris very much enjoys his job. That’s an essential element of success in any field!
“I do enjoy my role very much as every day is different from the other. I also tremendously enjoyed our time in the Middle East; where I looked after Hyatt’s operations in Qatar and the Sultanate of Oman.”
The hotel industry is incredibly hands-on, and much can be learned through on-the-job experience. However, many hotels are looking for graduates from first-class higher education providers, when it comes to filling their senior positions.
“I was in a unique position as I already had several years of experience before I went to Hotel School. It was therefore very easy to find a good job after graduation, as I had a degree and experience – something most graduates do not have. The school assisted me in finding work, by assuring I had a professional CV and cover letter, as well as linking me with contacts they already had in the field.”
With all of his training and experience, and the knowledge that has been passed to him from his father and grandfather, what makes a great hotelier?
“Passion for the guests. We do not need General Managers, we need Hoteliers! Hoteliers lead from the front and put the guest and employees into the centre of everything.
There is no such thing as my favourite hotel. I travel so much and stayed in so many hotels that I could tell countless stories about why some hotels are good or better than others. But as long as the service is genuine and the hotel is clean, then it is a good hotel.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. It is the same with hotels.”
Does Chris have any advice for aspiring hoteliers and recent hotel school graduates?
“It is a lot of hard work. It is a lot of long hours. It is a lot of frustrations. But, hang in there. It can be more rewarding than any other job. If your ultimate goal is to become rich and retire young; then choose another career.”
See here for more information about what’s on offer at the Blue Mountains International Hotel School.