Rutger Verschuren is Area Vice President, Macao Operations of Artyzen Hospitality Group – a subsidiary of Shun Tak Holdings Ltd, and General Manager at Grand Lapa, Macao. Prior to this, he was Chief Operating Officer of the Hospitality Division at Shun Tak Holdings Ltd. He speaks Dutch, English, German, French and moderate Thai.
Born in February 1962 in a little village in North Brabant, a province in the southern region of the Netherlands, Verschuren has always shown an entrepreneurial spirit.
When he was 14, he started his own business – a discotheque called Disco Tropical. He DJ-ed at weddings, sports events, private parties and even at Carnaval—a big regional festival in the Netherlands—playing ‘70s and ‘80 hits on his own equipment, complete with lightshows.
The business was so successful he seriously considered pursuing it professionally after completing secondary school. By the time he was 18, Verschuren had saved up nicely from his DJing gigs as well as working in restaurants on weekends and holidays, from dishwashing to cooking to serving. He was definitely the “cool guy,” riding a Tomos moped and a sporty Alfa Romeo.
Verschuren doesn’t recall the exact moment a career in hotel management occurred to him, but when it came time to choose his university major, he decided to lie low on the DJing gigs and attend the bachelor’s hospitality management programme at the Hotel school The Hague. “At some point in time, I wanted to become a doctor, but I would be studying for so many years, and my required chemistry scores weren’t that great,” says Verschuren. The hotel school allowed students to enter the workforce early as well, which appealed to him.
In 1985, Verschuren had his first on-the-job experience as a management trainee at The Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, for six months. “I picked The Oriental Hotel as it was the best hotel in the world at that time. It was a very good start for my career. This was prior to the Internet, so what I knew about Thailand came from a 2,000-page travel index with small pictures, and an encyclopedia,” he recalls.
Verschuren’s first impression of Asia was, “Wow! It’s very hot!” He remembers his first meal, too, at the employee restaurant at The Oriental: “A chicken broth with all the intestines. I just remember thinking: ‘Oh my God! This is a bad sign – six months of strange food ahead!’” But as it turned out, he fell in love with Thailand, and though he returned after his training to the Netherlands as a company assistant at The Hague’s Kurhaus Hotel, Thailand had captivated his heart.
After a few years, Verschuren began to feel antsy. “I felt that moving up the ranks in Holland was a slow process. We could be ambitious, but we had to wait for decades or be very lucky to move up the career ladder. No one ever leaves his or her job!” he explains.
“Those days, we had to handwrite every application letter, so I picked up the old hotel index again and applied in 45 different hotels from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta to Hong Kong.” Not receiving any immediate offers to his liking, he quit his job in 1988 and bought a one-way ticket back to Bangkok.
He made a few calls to old contacts established during his time at The Oriental Hotel, and soon one lucky day, the phone rang: the Montien Hotel Bangkok was asking for a meeting. Verschuren became Director of Food and Beverage, and that experience taught him an important lesson:
“When you strongly feel you have to do something, you have to do it and follow your guts. Learn when to trust your feeling!”
In 1990, Verschuren received a proposal to become general manager at Thavorn Palm Beach Resort, a family-owned hotel in Phuket. At the age of 28, he was being offered an opportunity that would not have happened back home in Europe until he was at least 50 years old! “Some people told me not to take it as I was so young, but I decided to go for it, and I stayed there for nearly eight years. The owner was very supportive and expanded my responsibility every now and then. I looked after two gorgeous resorts and had learned a lot when I decided to move on.”
In Phuket, Verschuren met his wife. Together, they decided to move to Bali, Indonesia, where he was general manager at the Holiday Inn for two and a half years. There, he also became a father to his first son.
Manila in the Philippines was his next step. “It was a grey city but filled with colourful and happy people. It was our home for two years.” There, he was also general manager for Holiday Inn, overseeing a 600-room compound with the biggest casino in the Philippines at the time.
Two years later, Verschuren was back in Thailand, having joined the Dusit Hotel Group, a conglomerate comprising 22 hotels in Southeast Asia and Dubai. He became vice-president of operations for the group based in Bangkok, where his daughter was born in 2004.
In 2008, another opportunity came along and led him to another new chapter – as the managing director at the Sheraton Grand Macao. “I was very intrigued by the size of the hotel,” he says. “It was a project that I looked forward to.” In 2008, Verschuren arrived in Macao to manage the pre-opening of this 4,000-room mega hotel.
When the 2008 financial crisis hit, and the Sheraton project was frozen in 2009, he was given the choice to transfer to the Sheraton in either Chongqing, China, or in Libya. Verschuren and his family opted for the latter to experience “somewhere totally different” and lived in North Africa for a year, which he recalls as being “the best family time ever! I never played so much Monopoly in my life,” he jokes.
In 2010, Shun Tak Holdings Ltd. offered him a position in Macao working for Shun Tak Hospitality as chief operating officer for Shun Tak Group, hospitality division. “I was quick to say ‘yes,’ as it would be very easy to come back, especially as my kids would go back to the same school with the same friends. I had only been away for one year,” Verschuren states.
“One of my first duties was to look after the businesses in Macau Tower, and to open Mandarin Oriental, Macao, owned by a joint venture with Shun Tak, as well as pushing performance at our SkyCity Marriott Hong Kong. When Shun Tak founded Artyzen, a new hospitality subsidiary, I was asked to join as area vice president for Macao operations with office at Grand Lapa.”
Verschuren is currently responsible for Grand Lapa, Macao, Grand Coloane Resort and a hotel that will be opening soon in Hengqin, Macao’s neighbor to the south, as well as scouting to expand Artyzen’s portfolio in the region.
He is also Chairman of the France Macau Business Association (FMBA), first introduced to the organisation by a colleague. “Ms. Pansy Ho is one of the founders of FMBA. I was asked to help out for a short time, and before I knew it, I was already the Chairman. It is good to give something back to the community, and FMBA has a very active membership base and hosts lots of activities.”
With so much responsibility resting on his shoulders, his FMBA commitments and his family, Verschuren’s motto through it all is to “do what your heart tells you to do and work hard to make everyone happy.” and that goes for all in your circle.