The HOW festival once again brought together the most important regional and international hoteliers

At the only conference on the subject of hotel operations in Europe, the latest trends, but also challenges and examples of good practices in hotel operations were discussed.

Author  HrTurizam Promo

28. October 2022.

The sixth edition was held in Opatija HOW / Hotel Operations Weekend / Festival. After two festivals in Zadar and two in Poreč, and one online edition, HOW Festival took place this year for the first time in Opatija, in the Ambasador hotel of the Liburnia Hotels & Villas group. The only conference on the subject of hotel operations in Europe once again gathered the most important regional and international hoteliers in one place to discuss together the latest trends, but also challenges and examples of good practices in hotel operations. Among the more than 450 participants are mostly hotel directors, operations directors and heads of hotel departments, as well as other experts from related industries.

"When I looked at the list of participants this year, I saw that there are hotels and groups that have been our participants since the very beginning of HOW. This must mean that we are doing something good.", said the director of the HOW Festival at the opening Andrea Škerlj from HESA Group.

Now traditionally, the conference started with a discussion on global trends in the field of hotel operations. Marina Franolic, Director for Central and Eastern Europe at Bench spoke with Srđan Mileković, senior vice president of operations at Hyatt hotels, about what quality hotel service means today, how to measure it, and what it will mean in the future. Srđan pointed out that although it is sometimes difficult to define, the quality of service is at the core of hotel business. Also, while trends are changing - after the pandemic we are witnessing an increase in travel (the so-called revenge travel) through which the expectations of guests also change - hotels faced with a shortage of employees and increasing costs must redefine their services and their quality. Among the most significant trends, technology and automation, as well as sustainability, inevitably remain. More and more owners are paying attention to these aspects and are willing to invest in them, but we need more enthusiastic individuals to get things moving. In the hotel industry, the law of physics and psychology applies - we move in one direction at a certain speed, until some external force pushes us or stops us, that is, on a psychological level, until pain paralyzes us or encourages us to start doing something different.  

The year 2023 is ahead of us, again full of challenges. Although the pandemic may be abating, an economic and energy crisis is looming, and there is also the issue of rising costs and finding quality staff. About what we can expect from 2023. Živorad Vasić, the director of Kadena Properties, spoke with the leaders of the Croatian hotel industry - Karl Eckerstorfer, president of the Liburnia Hotels & Villas Management Board, Josip Jutt Ferlan, general director of the cluster at Hilton Hotels Zagreb i David Taylor, director and president of the Board of Jadranski luxury hotels. The panelists agreed that the hotel industry has already proven its resilience countless times, so it is currently at a stage where nothing can surprise anymore.

"We are ready for all challenges", emphasized Josipa Jutt Ferlan and added that in 2023 the greatest challenge will be the workforce. From the financial side, Karl Eckerstorfer emphasized that COVID taught banks that hotels are a stable and profitable investment. There are banks that have recognized this and will continue to invest, but there are also banks that do not want to take risks. Only financing costs will increase so that the repaid part of the property will increase from the current 30% to 40 to 45%. They agreed that people will always want to travel, only the conditions and their expectations change, and hoteliers must adapt to it. The creation of an effective strategy plays a big role in this, and the employees in whom it is necessary to invest, motivate them and familiarize them with all aspects of the strategy.

Sandi Kovačević, the general manager of CUBO Group spoke with Boris Simm, vice president of group operations and member of the executive board of Ruby Hotels about what role hotels will play in the future. Ruby hotels are specific in their own way "lean luxury" a strategy that implies a service created for the guest they call the "avant-garde cosmopolitan". These guests are world travelers to whom technology is very important and who want to meet new people. That's why Ruby hotels are concentrated on efficiency, which is reflected in space (e.g. they don't have a reception but only a bar) and resources (e.g. 60 second self check-in). However, both up to now and in the future - it is man who makes the difference.

In the next panel, on the topic of hotel operational efficiency, Daniela fields, the global director of operations in Selina, emphasized that until now everyone has mentioned the technology intended for the guest, but we must not forget the technology intended for the employees, which makes their work easier. She also agreed with her Yvonne Tesch, director of quality, people development and operational excellence at Falkensteiner Michaeler Tourism Group, who emphasized that service quality and investment in employees go hand in hand. Quality is not only important for the guest but also for the team members. Moderator Luka Berger, the director of Flexkeeping presented some statistics and tips on how to check efficiency, but Diana Lukic Grandov, head of the rooms sector in Maistra, added that it is important to use data on operational efficiency in order to reward the best individuals in the team.

He presented how to achieve excellence in customer service, collect guest feedback and use this information to improve productivity George Antoniadis, CEO and founder of S-Rate.

How 21 10 2022 3

For several years, sustainability has been the main topic of all discussions, and recently the high costs of energy sources have been mentioned as a challenge. Igor Nekić, director of business development at Liburnia Hotels & Villas asked his interlocutors Marko Bačić, head of the rooms department at the Kempinski Hotel Adriatic, Kemal Lojo, head of development at Danfoss and Teu Pestotnik Defection, director of the quality sector at Valamar Riviera, what their companies are doing in terms of sustainability. Valamar created a strategy of 6 short-term strategic goals and 12 goals until 2025 when they plan to become a carbon neutral company. Kempinski does not have such an elaborate strategy, but they have invested in solar panels, reduction of water and electricity consumption, digitization of operations and waste management. As an excellent strategic partner in reducing electricity consumption, Danfoss can help hoteliers create a strategy based on current consumption measurements.

Meanwhile, Christopher Irving, head of the partnerships department at RoomPriceGenie, in the second hall spoke with Ivo Gasparič, director of the finance and accounting department at WUD Hotel Slovenia, Minch Pachikov, general manager at Mövenpick Hotel Zagreb i Liutauras Vaitkevicius, general manager at The Zetter Hotel Group on strategies that can help increase property revenue.

After the presentation Marko Pekčec, HR consultant at Manpower SEE and employment statistics in the hotel industry, was followed by a panel on the hot topic of human resources. With a moderator Nikolina Lokmer, assistant general manager of Arena Hospitality Group, they spoke Ana Gazić, head of human resources at Falkensteiner Hotels & Residences, Haris Kadenic, Marketing Director at Manpower SEE i Roko Palmić, general manager of Hotel Ikador. The hotel industry is faced with a great need for skilled labor, and regional sources are drying up. 120.000 people leave Bosnia and Herzegovina every year, and Croatia is no longer their preferred destination. Other sources should be found, and these are recently Asian countries such as the Philippines, Nepal or India. The panelists agreed that the hotel industry should be made "sexy" and attractive to young generations, reduce the seasonality of the industry, and work on the employer branding of companies in order to attract employees from EU countries and maintain an authentic guest experience.

At the same time, a food and wine pairing workshop was held in another hall, which he held Bert Blaise, wine consultant at Which Wine When.

The HOW Festival continued with further discussions on current topics in hotel business

Other day HOW Festival in Opatija, it started with coffee and a conversation with the participants keynote speakers Srđan Mileković, Senior Vice President of Operations at Hyatt Hotels, Boris Simm, vice president of group operations and member of the executive board of Ruby Hotels i David Taylor, director and president of the Board of Jadranski luxury hotels. When asked about the recovery of the MICE segment, Taylor pointed out that nothing is the same as before, hotels have found new sources of income and ways of doing business in these three years, restructured their sales teams, so it is difficult to go back to the old ways and book groups 2-3 years in advance. Srđan Mileković added that despite this, MICE is certainly recovering and that hybrid events will never replace live events. Regarding the issue of human resources, the speakers agreed that the lack of manpower is also due to the fact that during every crisis, layoffs are first resorted to, and when business returns to normal, they cannot bring those people back. The strategy for dealing with crisis situations needs to be changed.

After the finished coffee, the rest of the panels and workshops followed, which took place in parallel throughout the second day in two halls. In the first hall, Martin Ykem, chief operating officer of Vienna House Hotelmanagement, gave a presentation on employer branding and the values ​​that today's leader should have. He emphasized that the hotel industry is an industry where people want to feel good, and this applies equally to guests and employees: "Problems should be defined and solved by people - for people". After the presentation, they joined him in the panel discussion Katrin Melle, Regional Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Talent, EAME/SWA at Hyatt, Dominik Pažin, Director of Operations at Liburnia Hotels & Villas and Yvonne Tesch, Director of Quality, People Development and Operational Excellence at Falkensteiner Michaeler Tourism Group. At the center of business should be people, who should be provided with a healthy and safe environment that provides them with a sense of belonging and empathy.

How 21 10 2022 2

How 21 10 2022 4

At the same time, in another hall, they discussed the digital transformation in 2022 Tilen Albrecht, assistant manager at NEU Residences, Alexander Haußmann, co-founder and CEO of Straiv by CODE2ORDER, Urška Radanovič, director of Hotel-Kanin i Mirko Gudelj, senior vice president of software engineering at Protel, with moderation Christopher Irving, Head of Partnerships at RoomPriceGenie.

What technologies, operational and those intended for guests, are in the hotel business today must have? Sanja Mihaljevic, client success manager at Hoteza pointed out that there are two types of technologies - those that are used to improve efficiency and those that are just trendy. Technologies should be useful and attractive so that they provide both functionality and design. Svetoslav Panev, general manager of the cluster at Best Western Hotels & Resorts, gave the example of the introduction of robots in the hotel and how their room service revenues increased by 50% because guests were interested in the robot, and they reduced the prices of this service to make it even more attractive. Along with the implementation itself, it is important to have a complete strategy. Duška Žižak, head of sales and marketing at Marinus Hotel and moderator of the panel Liutauras Vaitkevicius, general manager of The Zetter Hotel Group, agreed that mobile applications are slowly becoming a part of the past because guests do not want to clutter their mobile phones with new applications or go through the installation process.

Meanwhile, Leonardo Buzov Vulas, director of sales and marketing of the Mövenpick Hotel Zagreb, spoke with Sandi Kovačević, general manager of the CUBO Group, about how to achieve a "wow" effect with today's guests and what their expectations are.

The operation of housekeeping departments in hotels has changed during the pandemic. The requirements for cleanliness are higher (although hotels have always paid great attention to this), and it is difficult to find manpower. Many hotels use external partners for this business segment, but today the question arises of the profitability of such cooperation. Aleksandar Vasilijević, the general manager of the Hilton Belgrade hotel spoke with Nebojš Daraboš, operational director of Mona Hotel Management and Boris Simm from Ruby Hotels on this topic. Although Ruby Hotels primarily used external partners for the cleaning staff, they are now introducing a hybrid concept where they still have part of their employees in-house and so far it is successful. Nebojša pointed out that there are advantages in-house of employment in that the quality of the service can be monitored and influenced (by increasing hours or training), and the staff has a sense of belonging and connection with the brand. Disadvantages relate primarily to higher costs.

Katrin Melle from Hyatt gave a presentation on the importance of body language and how to connect with others on a human level - language, body, words and emotions.

The program in the first hall ended with the topic "how to build a unique and high-quality restaurant and bar concept", which was discussed Bert Blaise, wine consultant at Which Wine When, Tobias Brown, director of Business 2 Hospitality and Jason Wischhoff, General Manager EMEA, CEE & Asia for Benihana Restaurants. She moderated the panel Eljesa Saciri, director of the Zetter Hotel Group. Bert Blaize emphasized that wine is often neglected today, and it can be an important reason for guests to come if the offer is well designed and combined with the food offer. Jason Wischhoff presented the unique concept of Benihana restaurants, which offer a special gastronomic experience of preparing Japanese specialties directly at the guests' table. Tobias Brown emphasized that the most important thing for a successful concept is to find out what people really want, give them that F&B experience and make it fun.

For the end, Petr Jiskra, Marketing Manager of BHMS BusinessHospitality Management from Switzerland and Gordana Kolenko, director of BHV Education from Croatia revealed to us what young employees today want and need.

Photo source: HOW festival


Author  HrTurizam Promo

28. October 2022.