After four years of operations in the Serbian capital city, Holiday Inn Beograd has been presented with the Torchbearer Award, which is granted by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to its most successful hotels, that is, to the hotel assessed as the best by the guests.
This four-star hotel in Belgrade is owned by Belexpocentar, while Savath Hospitality Management is in charge of the management and consulting operations. Holiday Inn Beograd first won the Torchbearer Award in 2009, but its success is even bigger this year - Thomas Pavlovic, director general of this hotel, has been presented with the IHG Group Europe General Manager of the Year Award 2011.
In an interview with eKapija, Thomas Pavlovic, director general of Holiday Inn Beograd and CEO of Savath Hospitality Management, speaks about the things that make this young hotel so special, how they managed to have the best business year despite the global crisis, whether the Holiday Inn family in Serbia will get new members and many other issues.
eKapija: As many as 686 hotels within the IHG Group compete for the Torchbearer Award. How has Holiday Inn Beograd managed to win this prestigious award twice in such strong competition?
- The key to our success lies in unique personnel and one-of-the-kind way of work. As it was already said at the awards ceremony - Holiday Inn Beograd is a "hotel with passion." It is not only the level of professionalism and knowledge of the hotel industry, but also the ambience we create and the experience we offer to our guests. I would say it is because of an absolutely specific feature of ours that we stand out from the competition in both local and international market.
(the Torchbearer Award)
Torchbearer is also a recognition that commit us to keep our position, which is not going to be so easy at all.
eKapija: During four years of operations, Holiday Inn Beograd has been achieving nothing but success. When will Holiday Inn in Novi Sad join it? How is the construction of this hotel going?
- Work is in progress, everything goes as planned, and we expect to open the hotel in Novi Sad this autumn.
eKapija: Construction of Holiday Inn in Kragujevac was first announced in 2008, but the work has not started yet. What may be the reason for that?
- There were several unexpected situations in Kragujevac, such as land conversion issue, bankruptcy of the potential investor, etc. However, that project is now launched again and the company is seeking a new investor.
This hotel is designed in line with IHG standards, so that its look will not be changed a lot. Its exterior may be changed, but it all depends on the architect appointed by the future investor.
eKapija: How long will it take to build that hotel?
- From the moment we find an investor, that story can develop at a very quick pace. The Master Plan already exists, this hotel is included in that plan, and the construction would progress quickly. Based on our experience, this 7,000-square-meter facility can be finished in 12 to 18 months.
eKapija: Why has the construction of Holiday Inn Express in Ruzveltova street in Belgrade been halted?
- Savath Hospitality Management has not yet involved in this project. The future owner of Holiday Inn Express in Ruzveltova street is a company that already owns ten hotels in Switzerland and has enough experience in this field. But that does not mean that we will not be asked for advice in some future stage of the project.
Personally, I would like us to join this project.
eKapija: Falkensteiner is building a hotel in New Belgrade, the first Courtyard by Marriott is expected to be opened at Republic Square, Continental is becoming Crowne Plaza. Is Belgrade ready for all these luxury facilities and will there be enough guests for them given that the statistics show that the hotel occupancy rate at Belgrade-based hotels is somewhat above 30%?
- Belgrade is ready for them. When you check the official statistics and see that the hotel occupancy rate in Belgrade ranges between 32 and 33 percent, it is normal that you ask yourself why we need all these new hotels. However, the statistics include information about some hotels from the post-communist period, certain unfinished privatizations, etc. The arrival of new hotels will push all of them out of the market.
(Holiday Inn Beograd)
It is natural that the battle between facilities operating under certain brands and in line with certain standards will be a bit more intensive, but that is completely normal and desirable. Competition revives business.
eKapija: How does Holiday Inn Beograd cope with the competition?
- The quality of services we provide is what makes us different from our competitors. When you choose a hotel, you don't ask any more if it has an air conditioning system, high-speed Internet and similar things. In the 21st century, that all go without saying.
Our hotel experiences the same problems as all other hotels in the market, but we resolve them in a bit different way. For example, what to do when a room is not ready in order to avoid the guest getting angry.
Successful operations of Holiday Inn Beograd are under the direct influence of Savath, and our strategy has placed it high in the market.
eKapija: Did the economic crisis affect the number of guests?
- Despite the global and national crisis, Holiday Inn Belgrade once again had one of the most successful business years. Even though we raised the average price of rooms by EUR 2 in 2011, the hotel occupancy rate reached 60%. Guests are ready to pay for quality.
I can say that our operations were completely opposite to the situation in the country.
eKapija: Serbia has been declared the quickest-growing congress destination in Europe in the last four years. As a member of the Congress Bureau of Serbia, what is your comment on the development of this branch of tourism in our country? Are we ready to organize some big congresses?
- The number of hotels, which is relevant to foreign clients and important for winning the chance to organize some big congresses, is constantly growing and will soon reach an adequate level. However, in order to organize a serious congress with few thousand participants, it is necessary to have a congress center. For the time being, the only suitable space for congresses in Serbia is Sava Center, but its interior, functional and other characteristics are not at an adequate level, which is our key problem.
A shortage of appropriate congress rooms in Serbia is a problem that needs to tackled by the state. Otherwise, Serbia will have serious difficulties to continue to grow as a congress destination.
eKapija: Is the construction of new congress centers in Serbia in the pipeline?
- As far as I know, no.
PREMIER IN JUNE, BOSNA IN APRIL
eKapija: Savath is carrying out the pre-opening management program for five-star Premier hotel in Vrdnik, and the company is also hired as consultant for the reconstruction Bosna hotel in Doboj. When will these facilities be opened?
- The pre-opening phase in Vrdnik started in mid-January 2012, and this hotel is scheduled to be opened on 15 June 2012. Bosna hotel in Doboj will be opened in one month - on April 26th.