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 Bulgaria Now Has Its First Internationally Branded 4-Star Ho

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PostSubject: Bulgaria Now Has Its First Internationally Branded 4-Star Ho   Wed Dec 08, 2010 9:44 pm

Bulgaria Now Has Its First Internationally Branded 4-Star Hotel

Christian Dangel is Swiss and was born 1960. He has extensive international experience in the hospitality industry, having held international hotel management and operations positions in Switzerland, Mexico, Peru and UAE during the past 25 years.

He joined Rezidor in 2006 as Director of Sales &
Marketing at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland and was appointed Operations Manager of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Basel, Switzerland in May 2009 – before being appointed General Manager of the Park Inn Sofia in 2010.

Christian Dangel holds a diploma in Hotel &
Restaurant Management from Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland. Prior to his career with Rezidor, he held positions at Al Raha Beach Hotel in Abu Dhabi (UAE), Dolder Grand Hotel, Zuerich (Switzerland), Hotel Chalet Maya in Cancun (Mexico), Swissôtel Lima in Lima (Peru), Best Western Swiss Hotels and Hotel Bellevue Palace in Berne (Switzerland).

Milena Hristova talked to Christian Dangel right after the official launch December 7 of Park Inn Sofia, the very first Park Inn property in Bulgaria, which happened to be the hundredth in the chain.

Both Park Inn Hotel and Radisson Blu are in the portfolio of Rezidor Hotel group. How will the two hotels complement each other on the market in Sofia?

Exactly, we are going to complement, not compete each other. At the stage where we are, we are taking a lot of advantage out of the recognition that Radisson Blu has in Bulgaria. It has been here since 2001 and its brand is very well known. In 2010, our brand's generic name was changed to "
Park Inn by Radisson"
, which we believe will further strengthen its impressive growth and awareness.

Park Inn came to Bulgaria in the right moment and now that we are together with Radisson Blu, we are a complementary product. Radisson Blu is the upmarket brand, while Park Inn by Radisson is a four-star hotel, which targets the mid-market. We are sharing different services like human resources, financial controlling and purchasing, but we are not sharing sales, in other words we don't have a team, which sells both hotels. We recommend the Radisson Blu when we have requests for larger meetings and events, for which we don't have enough space. They recommend us when the client has a smaller budget. True, the market is very price sensitive, but still it makes no sense to reduce our prices below a certain level.

How long have you been in Bulgaria? How do you feel in Sofia, doing what you do?

I arrived in Bulgaria at the end of July this year. I spent some time at the Radisson Blu as we had to recruit our staff. I was very positively surprised how open the people in Bulgaria are. To tell you the truth, I thought Bulgarians would be much more Eastern European-like than they proved to be. That was my first visit to the country – I have travelled a lot, living in South America, the Middle East, Hungary, Poland and Greece, but never in-between. I knew the communist regime was over, but expected Bulgarians to be much more closed into themselves. I was surprised to see how the people are dressed, what you can buy in the shops. My only problem is that I don't speak the language, but I am determined to learn it.

Judging by your impressions how has business in your sector changed in the last one year? Have you seen the market recover? Is there more demand for Bulgaria as an inbound destination?

As far as I have heard and learnt, the crisis here is not over yet, at least not to the extent that it is in Western Europe. The financial crisis came to Bulgaria a little bit later, but it is still going on. There is certainly light on the horizon. For example last year a handful of companies did their parties outside their offices, while now we have requests for many, albeit not big parties.

I truly believe there is a lot of potential in this market. We are the first internationally branded four-star hotel. Sofia has Sheraton, Hilton, Radisson Blu, Holiday Inn, but these are all five-star hotels. Bringing our brand into Bulgaria will help the market. We search very strictly where to locate our hotels and it is a very positive sign for the Bulgarian and Sofia market to have a second hotel of our chain.

Which traits of the local market attracted Rezidor Hotel Group here?

We have our future business development directors, who search the markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Obviously they have seen that there is business in Sofia, which Radisson Blu can't take, but it would make sense to open a Park Inn hotel here. Rezidor defines the markets, where it would like to go and it is not always easy because it does not always own the property.

What is the situation here in Sofia?

We are managing the property here. The owner is a Greek family and we are doing the management.

Talking about brands, do you think that attracting international brands such as Park Inn is one of the ways to improve Bulgaria's image and its branding abroad?

Absolutely! I come from Zurich and for quite a lot of time we didn't have any international brands, besides the hotels, including the Hilton and the Sheraton, but they were all out of the city. Now we that have Marriot Hotels and the likes and this has given to the city a new kick. I am sure that in the near future these companies will come here too. Bulgaria and Romania are now members of the European Union and there is great potential in their market. What you need is a stronger tourism organization, which will promote Bulgaria better. It is such a nice country!

The market in Sofia is very price-sensitive and my impressions are that five-star hotels are taking business from the four-star market. How do you plan to beat this?

Yes, I agree, but we have to adapt. Prices in the restaurant business depend very much on the season. Besides at the beginning we had to follow in the footsteps of Greenville, the previous brand of the hotel, and adapt our prices to theirs. The five-star Radisson Blu is the other hotel on the Sofia market, which is in the portfolio of Rezidor Hotel group, but there is no sense to fight with our big brother. There is also no sense in giving our services for no money. We are following the prices all the time and know that clients prefer those who give them added value.

Speaking about making prices affordable, how much potential is there in the local market and have Bulgarians stay at the Park Inn?

The local people are very important for us. When they want a different price, we give it to them as long as it is in our price range. The locals are the people, who will spread the message about the hotel and come back if they have been satisfied, even if they are just restaurant guests.

What do you want the hotel to become known for here in Sofia?

Our slogans are: "
Best sleep in town"
and "
Sleep well, live well"
. That says it all.

What is the message that you want to send to local customers?

I want to tell them that we offer special exterior design and special internal attitude. I am talking a lot with my quests - I am not all the time in my office - and many of them stay here for several days, especially when they are patients at the nearby Tokuda hospital, which is known for is MS therapy. Those, who have been here before, now found the change that the hotel has undergone incredible. They tell me: "
Now there is spirit in the house."
The fact that they feel at home is what matters most. We are not an anonymous machine, we are human beings. My staff have the chance to live this "
Yes I can"
attitude. This is perhaps easier to do in a hotel like this than in a city hotel.

What is the most difficult thing to explain to an international traveler, who is coming to an EU country, but faces all the challenges and not that nice views here?

We, the people in this business, say this is a question of hardware and software. The hardware are the holes, the streets, while the software are the human beings. If you come to a restaurant which offers a nice service, you will forget about the broken streets. But let me point out that Sofia is not an ugly city and it is the people, who can make it even better. So far I have had very nice experiences with open people and may be this can convince the rest to overlook some of the city's defects.

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"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...it's about learning to dance in the rain."
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