Interview with Maarten Markus, Managing Director NH Group

7 April, 2016
  • 4 min read
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Congratulations to the iconic NH Krasnapolsky Hotel in Amsterdam, with the re-opening of the historic building. To celebrate the re-opening we would like to share the interview with Maarten Markus, Managing Director NH Group in The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, UK, France, South Africa & USA. Maarten: "Looking back on my career so far, it all started in Belgium. I was Front Office Manager at the Dorinth Hotel at that time and thought I was doing well. But, after three months I had a meeting with the GM who told me that the way I was managing was not great: my staff were leaving, I only gave commands, and I was not accommodating. In short: I was not the manager I should have been. It took me by surprise. He gave me two choices: to leave, or to stay and be trained by him. I chose the latter and stayed for one more year and worked as a day and night clerk. I started from scratch and worked my way up again. It was one of those experiences I simply had to encounter.

After nine months the GM told me I was ready and I could become Front Office Manager again, so I did that for three or four months. Then I became Front Office Manager for the Park Hotel in Amsterdam, got promoted to Rooms Division Manager and did that for two/three years. I really liked that job, but I wanted to grow again. When I was on a holiday in France I read the newspaper and found an ad for a Rooms Division Manager at Golden Tulip in Accra. I applied for the job and went to West Africa for the job.

After two years, Golden Tulip needed me as GM in Belgium in a newly acquired hotel, and I always dreamt of becoming General Manager. So I packed my things and went to Belgium. When the plane landed at the airport I was told that the deal to buy the hotel was off. It was in December and I had no place to live, so I stayed at a vacation park with no heating. Being used to the hot weather in Africa, it was so cold! After a while I moved to Rotterdam to work as Rooms Division Manager for Golden Tulip, and then they finally found me a position as GM, in Germany. So my wife and I went to Germany. We arrived at the hotel, rang the bell… it was closed, the hotel had gone bankrupt. They offered me a position at that hotel to show I was capable of making it profitable again. I signed without even consulting the contract with my wife, who’s a lawyer. She was pregnant with our second child and she moved back to Rotterdam. Those were challenging times, with two small children, traveling back and forth. 

Then I was offered a position as GM at Golden Tulip and later at NH in Zandvoort. From there I became Cluster Manager for three hotels, then Regional Manager for different regions, then I became Managing Director in Berlin. I became responsible for Central Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Rumania, Hungary and Slovakia. After that, I became responsible for the regions The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, UK, France, South Africa & USA. And that’s where I am now.

Life is really fast these days, I don’t ever have time to be bored. We are working on the complete rebranding of the former NH Hoteles group to NH Hotel Group: a total make-over of all aspects. In the 1.5 years I’ve worked in this function, not a day has been the same: becoming more brand oriented, investing in properties, segmentation, many, many things are going on.

The first time we received the award for best hotel chain in the Netherlands it completely took me by surprise. I remember it well, I was SO proud! Also fantastic was winning the RAI Hotel tender, it had been in the planning for 15/20 years! With 650 rooms ‘nhow RAI Amsterdam’ will become the largest hotel in the Benelux. Announcing this to the staff was amazing, everybody was so proud. These kind of things make my life very easy and make my job great.

Looking back now at the time when I was Front Office Manager at the Dorinth and I was told I was not a good manager at the time; I now know my GM was right, I still had a lot to learn. Freshly graduated from the hotel school, I was so confident, I was THE man, ready to take on the world. But you have to work hard, and use what you have learned in school, those management principles, in a natural way. Being a boss means not being a boss, but being a servant to your team, to make them excel. 

Now I have to manage about 2500 staff divided over seven countries. Of course that brings many responsibilities, but you grow into that role. Going from managing no one to managing 2500 people doesn’t happen overnight, you grow slowly into that position and, when it happens, the position fits like a glove.

I am where I am today because I was in the right place at the right time, with the right experience and background. And opportunities came along, I never had the chance to really think about a next move. I did know I didn’t want a safe career where I would stay in the same place, I need more. If I get a call tomorrow to pack my bags and move to China, I will move to China. It’s as simple as that. If a company knows you are open to that, they will give you the opportunity to do so.

My advice to current students at Hotelschool The Hague: work hard, follow your dreams, travel and get out of your comfort zone while you’re still young. You have nothing to lose, only to gain and again: work hard! Believe in yourself and success will come.

About the author

Hotelschool The Hague

Hotelschool The Hague was founded and funded in 1929 by the hospitality industry to create a central place where industry partners could gain and share new insight, skills and knowledge. Since its foundation, the Hotelschool has become an international school specialised in hospitality management offering a 4-year Bachelor's degree in Hotel and Hospitality Management. This degree course is also available as the accelerated International Fast Track programme. Our 13 month Master Hospitality Management programme is designed to deliver the next generation of hospitality innovators.

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