GENERAL MANAGER OF PARK INN BY RADISSON BAKU HOTEL, NADINE FERNBACHER, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH AZERI OBSERVER, SPEAKS ABOUT COMPETITION IN AZERBAIJANI HOSPITALITY MARKET, PROSPECTS OF DEVELOPMENT OF TOURISM SECTOR, CONCEPTS AND VALUES SHARED BY RADISSON HOTEL CHAIN, AND PARK INN HOTEL BRAND IN PARTICULAR. SHE ALSO GIVES INFORMATION ON THE FACILITIES AND SERVICES OFFERED BY PARK INN BY RADISSON BAKU HOTEL, FEATURES THAT MAKE IT ATTRACTIVE FOR THE GUESTS, AND THE INTRODUCED NOVELTIES TO MAKE IT EVEN MORE COMFORTABLE.
BY ELENA KOSOLAPOVA & NARMIN RZAYEVA
AZERI OBSERVER STAFF WRITERS
Question: First of all, could you tell our readers about your background, what brought you to the hospitality?
Answer: I was born and raised in Germany and that is where I started my career in hospitality sphere right after school. In Germany, we have a nice program which allows to learn jobs. The program lasts two years and half – half of this period is professional school and the other half is practical work. And the students need to run through all the departments in hotel – from kitchen, room service, front office, so they really see how the whole hotel works. After this experience, I fell in love with the job and decided to continue my career in hospitality. Before being appointed to Azerbaijan, I worked in hotels in Georgia, Ukraine.
Q.: You were appointed as the General Manager of the Park Inn by Radisson Baku Hotel just a couple of month ago. What is your main mission here? What do you set as a goal of the hotel?
A.: The Park Inn Hotel presents on Azerbaijani market 14 years and was always doing financially good. We have a great location, strong brand recognition. Meanwhile, we have a lot of competitors in the market, mainly in the five star segment, and therefore we need to work to keep our business and our marketshare. We do that through concentrating on the guests experience, creating memorable moments for our guests, and making them to feel at home. We need to make sure that we keep the quality of our service. Of course, we always make changes like painting walls, changing carpets. But now we plan to do a bit more and bring changes to our conference area, make our ballroom a bit brighter. This room has a great potential – good ceiling height, perfect location, and after some investments it will be brilliant. Besides, we recently made some changes to the standards, focusing on the basics that are guests need, and that is a good mattress, good bed, great shower, and good breakfast. These are the key things. We are sure that with these changes our guests will have even better experience.
Q.: What can you tell us about the overall concept of the Park Inn Hotel?
A.: Park Inn is one of the seven brands of Radisson hotel chain, which has a diversified portfolio from 3 to 5-star hotels. Park Inn hotels are concentrated on business and leisure guests, and are mainly situated in major cities, and have good connections to the airports, great locations, and easy going service.
Q.: Why should guests of our city choose Park Inn by Radisson Baku Hotel to stay in Baku apart from the great location?
A.: We have hotels all over the world and the most of our guests know what strong services standard is behind us. We have a strong philosophy “Yes. I can,” which means that we always try to say “yes” to the wishes of our guests and make sure that we deliver what they are expecting. That is the main thing what we focus on.
Q.: Do you have a lot of returning guests?
A.: We have guests that come every year to certain events or vacations. Besides, 40-50% of our guests are regular corporate clients from the companies that do business in Baku. Not every hotel in Baku is concentrating on this sphere.
Q.: What was taken into account to choose a place for Park Inn Hotel?
A.: First of all, it depends on the availability of spaces. But we like to have a free standing building, with a location which is easy to reach, and not far from some places of interest. In Baku, we are located next to a big shopping center where our guests can get all the things that they might need. We have a long boulevard just across the road, where you can have a nice walk. We are not very far from the old city, which, in my opinion, is very interesting. We are next to the beautiful Caspian Sea, in a walking distance from the Maiden Tower, the city’s restaurants and shops area. So, our guest can see the fusion of old and modern Baku.
Q.: Park Inn by Radisson Baku Hotel often hosts national, regional and international conferences, important business meetings. What makes the hotel the best choice for such kind of events?
A.: We have strong technical equipment for conferences, strong meeting service, and we take care of the events from the beginning till the end. When it comes to the food concept, it is quite unique, as we offer ‘brain food’. A conference normally lasts 6-8 hours, and it happens that people have difficulties to concentrate over the whole period. It gets even worse when you have a few breaks, when you get doughnuts, muffins, which the most of the hotels offer. You feel great energy out of these sweet things, but the sugar rush lasts only for 10-20 minutes, and after that it becomes even more difficult to concentrate. So, we serve ‘brain food’ – the food which keeps the stable sugar level during the whole day. We sweeten thing not with sugar but with honey, we go for dark chocolate rather than regular chocolate, serve lot of fruits, less fat, i. e. we have natural products concept.
Q.: What kind of services does Park Inn by Radisson Baku Hotel offer to the people who already live in Baku?
A.: Bar and restaurant, as well as conference area, are open for everyone. Besides, we have apartments for 2-6 people with big terraces of 50-70 square meters, little kitchen and spacious living area. You can book them for a long term, but you can also book it as an event location for a celebration, cocktail, for enjoying sun and summer. We only have the apartments since March, so they are brand new, but we already have a lot of experience in doing events up there, both corporate cocktail events and private birthday parties.
Q.: As you said, Park Inn is a part of the world famous Radisson hotel chain. Could you tell our readers about the main values of this hotel company?
A.: Our goal is to be the top notch, whatever we do in hospitality industry. We are one of the biggest hotel companies, with hotels of different brands all over the world, so we have right product for clients with whatever budget and whatever purpose of stay. A very famous and common brand now is fancy, flippy and very high-tech oriented Radisson Red, which concentrates on young generation. There you can check in and check out with your mobile phone if you want to. The hotels have a big space where you can play billiard, a restaurant where you can make you order via your mobile phone. Everything is possible there. Radisson has its roots in Scandinavia, and earlier belonged to the Scandinavian Airlines. Now we are now a part of one of the biggest Chinese hotel chain, and we can benefit from the all the experience that the company has in the Chinese market. It opens up completely new markets, and we in Baku are already waiting for the Chinese travelers.
Q.: How competitive is the hospitality sphere in Baku and how different is it from the worldwide hospitality sphere?
A.: Hotels in Baku, on one side are competing between each other, and on the other side are competing with other destinations in the neighboring countries. Baku has great weather, and it is a good advantage compared to other destinations. A lot of activities already done in Azerbaijan to make this destination more popular among tourists and corporate clients. People need to understand that Baku is worth coming here, and events like UEFA Europe League Final, Formula 1 race for sure give Baku attraction in the world. Regarding the local hotel market, the competition is very much located in 5-star segment. We are one of the few hotels situated in the 4 star market. The world experience shows that it makes sense to have a more diversified hotel portfolio, including 2-3 star products, which are still great and have good comfort, just with limited service, and limited facilities. And that also makes sense for the city, because hotels are not the only businesses that get profit from tourism.
Q.: How do you assess the prospects of tourism and hospitality sphere development in Azerbaijan? What trends are coming?
A.: We have some markets that are always stable – Israel, Russia. But we also see new markets opening for us. We are expecting more business from China, India.
Q.: What are you impressions about mentality of people in Azerbaijan?
A.: That people are very frankly, hospitable, good in serving, and more relaxed. We, Germans, are very strict and organized. And here you have a feeling that life is important. People have great passion for what they do, they do not only work for money. And that is important, because we work in the people industry.