How to combine individuality and international standards

New hotels, forecasts for the season, social responsibility of hoteliers and much more — from the general manager of Rotana Hotels in Russia.

Как совместить индивидуальность и международные стандарты

Six months ago, the Rotana hotel chain, which owns and manages more than a hundred facilities in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Turkey, opened its first two hotels in Of Russia: They became the Edge Seligerskaya- Moscow Hotel and the Edge Vinogradovo-Moscow Hotel, operating under a franchise agreement under the Edge by Rotana brand. On the eve of the summer season, Alexander Timokhin, General Manager of Rotana Hotels in Russia, told Profi.Travel talks about what has changed in hotels with the arrival of a new brand, what principles of work it considers to be the main ones and how the hospitality industry is changing the world for the better.

Alexander, has the brand change influenced the concept of hotels?

— No, in this regard, everything has remained the same: Edge Vinogradovo is primarily a conference hotel, and Edge Seligerskaya is more focused on serving individual customers, although it regularly hosts MICE events.

Tell us more about each of these hotels.

— I want to start with Vinogradovo, because it was here that I started my career in the hospitality industry. At one time, it was the first hotel opened under the InterContinental Hotels Group brand in Russia, and it still remains one of the best in the corporate segment. Now it has 164 rooms of various categories, as well as 21 conference halls with a total area of more than 1000 square meters. meters. The hotel regularly hosts large-scale seminars, forums, conferences and banquets: for example, recently one of the well-known insurance companies held an event for 800 people.

The hotel is located just 4 kilometers from the MKAD and a 15-minute walk from the Phystech metro station, but at the same time retains the charm and atmosphere of a country location: there are a lot of greenery on its territory, the historic Vinogradovo estate complex and Long Ponds are nearby.

Edge Seligerskaya opened in 1991 under the Sofitel brand, it was Accor’s first project in Russia. Today it has 201 rooms and 11 conference rooms. Just like Edge Vinogradovo, it is designed for MICE events, but in recent years the individual segment has become increasingly popular here: corporate guests, individual domestic tourism, as well as weddings, receptions, etc. There is a registry office literally across the street from the hotel, so there are a lot of people who want to celebrate a wedding with us. Especially for such occasions, the banquet hall “Champs Elysees” was decorated in an appropriate solemn style. By the way, next to it, last year we opened a special site for on-site registrations.

What has changed in your work by switching to the Edge by Rotana brand?

— Edge by Rotana is a collection of independent hotels, so we keep our identity, while at the same time working according to international standards. The Rotana brand is very popular with tourists, it is well known by those who rest in the resorts of the UAE and the Middle East in general, and there are many Russians among them. Therefore, the new signage of our hotels in itself tells them about the high quality of services they will receive during their vacation or corporate event.

Does Rotana plan to expand further in Russia?

— Yes, a contract has already been signed for the opening of three new hotels under this brand in Sochi. The opening of hotels under the Rotana Hotels & Resorts and Rotana Residences brands is scheduled for 2026.

— Are Edge Vinogradovo and Edge Seligerskaya already connected to the Rotana Rewards Loyalty Program?

— Yes, the loyalty program started working right from the moment of the official opening of the hotels under the new brand — on October 31.

Which sales channels are the main ones for you?

— First of all, this is our website, through which we receive 70% of individual bookings. Yandex is in second place, and then the rest of the booking channels. And in the corporate segment, the best channel is word of mouth: if you organize an event at a high level and all participants are satisfied, then soon you will be actively recommended to partners. That’s exactly what happens here.

Do you cooperate with tour operators and travel agencies?

— Yes, we work with travel companies that receive foreign guests. Today, most of them come from countries such as China, Oman, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Belarus. But I must say that at the moment the tourist segment in our hotels is not too significant, the main place is still occupied by MICE.

Do you have statistics on returning guests?

— Yes, there are about 70% of them in the corporate segment and 30% in the individual segment.

What new products will the hotels please their guests in the near future?

— Updating is an ongoing process for us. When I was appointed to the position of general manager in 2022, I almost immediately offered to renovate the room stock. The owners agreed, and the process was launched. Now some of the rooms are already welcoming guests with brand new interiors.

The fact is that hotels, like people, are getting old. But if in our case this process is irreversible, then lobbies, rooms and restaurants are possible (and necessary if we want to develop!) update. My task is to convince the owners of this, and so far I have been quite successful with this. Now, for example, we are planning to change the interiors of the spa area and the pool.

In addition, we want our guests to feel comfortable in our hotels, so we try to make innovations taking into account their wishes. For example, we recently hosted a volleyball team, and it turned out that the standard 2—meter-long beds are too short – and therefore inconvenient for tall athletes. I offered the owner a solution to this problem, and now on one of the floors in the rooms there are beds with a length of 2.20 m. After all, there are a lot of tall people, and they should not feel discomfort because of their height!

Let me give you another example: with the appearance of Muslim guests performing ablutions, we began to install drainage in bathrooms, improved waterproofing and equipped rooms on two floors with a hygienic shower.

I believe that the willingness to meet customers halfway is the key to the success of the hotel.

How comfortable are hotels for people with disabilities?

— Our team is making every effort to create an accessible environment in Edge Vinogradovo and Edge Seligerskaya, and we regularly conduct audits aimed at eliminating shortcomings in this area. Moreover, the staff of the hotels employs employees with disabilities. I believe that the attitude towards such people is crucial for society as a whole, and I try to convey this to all my employees. We can change the world for the better only by personal example.

— It’s no secret that the staff turnover in hotels is very high. How do you deal with this phenomenon?

— First of all, I try to show by personal example what can be achieved in the hospitality industry: I myself went from a dishwasher to a CEO, and most executives also started from the very first stages of their careers. Now a lot of young people are coming to us starting their career: just last year we hired about 20 yesterday’s students — and each employee has a personal development plan.

My department heads motivate their subordinates, help them unlock their potential and successfully realize it. If a person takes the initiative, puts forward his ideas and suggestions, wants to grow and develop, then we are always ready to support him, send him to training, give him the opportunity to grow professionally. And our employees use these opportunities! For example, the Food and Beverage Manager at Edge Vinogradovo started 10 years ago from the position of a waiter in the room service and worked her way up to the head of the catering service.

To attract young professionals, Rotana has launched an educational project: a series of lectures on the hotel business in Russian universities. Representatives of the company introduce students studying hospitality, tourism and international relations to the specifics of working in the industry and career opportunities. In my opinion, this is a very effective strategy, which we support with live examples: we tell about ourselves, where we started our career, how we developed and what we achieved. I think this will not only be useful for students’ further studies, but also can inspire them to pursue a career in the hospitality industry.

Imagine yourself for a moment as a guest, not a general manager. What would you personally like to see in an ideal hotel?

— I think we all want about the same thing: comfort, attention and what we lack at home. For example, there is sometimes no time or energy for daily cleaning and standing at the stove, so when we arrive at the hotel, we want the room to be perfectly cleaned and the food is delicious. During a vacation or business trip, you want to pay as little attention as possible to everyday issues, and at the same time, the representatives of the hotel should solve all these issues efficiently and efficiently.

At the end of the conversation, I would like to hear your forecasts for the upcoming season.

— It will be smooth and successful, but it is already clear that such a boom as last year is not worth waiting for. The explosive growth of 20% that occurred after the pandemic is now unrealistic. According to my forecasts, it will be 5-7%.

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