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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » April 8, 2009
Destination Warsaw
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Ambition to Grow
April 8, 2009   
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Remco Norden, general manager of the Hilton Warsaw Hotel
and Convention Center, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

What does Hilton offer that other hotels in Warsaw cannot or do not?
From a global perspective, Hilton is one of the best recognized brands in the world, which carries the notions of excellence, prestige and luxury. More tangibly, Hilton has the only guest reward program where you can "double-dip": you get both airline points and hotel points-a great benefit for both individual travelers and meeting planners.

Here in Warsaw, our focus from the very first day has been quality above all else, and the BPCC Customer Care Award we received last year confirms our success in this area. So one may conclude the Hilton Warsaw Hotel & Convention Center offers superior service.

Travel has changed in recent years and when people go into their hotel room the first thing they do is open their laptop and download their emails. Hotels need to adapt to the present style of living and, therefore, we offer super-fast internet and an excellent, ergonomic work station. People are also more health-conscious, so our unbeatable fitness center and variety of healthy options in the restaurants and on our room service menu becomes even more of an asset here.

Furthermore, from a meeting and group perspective, we have the largest hotel conference center in town. We are the only hotel in Warsaw which can cater for a three-course menu for over 1,000 people and guarantee a medium-cooked steak for all. These are attractive selling points.

Are there enough large hotels in Warsaw?
If you had asked me 12 months ago I probably would have said no. But considering the current crisis, I say yes. Having said that, I still think there are great opportunities for Warsaw to increase the number of hotel beds in the long run. In the shorter perspective, I believe the Euro 2012 championships will be very important. However, it should not just be viewed from the point of the event itself, which is just a few weeks long, but rather in terms of the marketing and promotion Warsaw and Poland receive, and the infrastructure built for the championships. Speaking of which, as a leisure destination, Warsaw does not have enough to offer for a week, but once people can easily travel between the Polish cities, I feel large tour operators from around the world will really be able to sell Poland and Warsaw very effectively.

How do you think the economic downturn will affect the hotel trade in Poland?
I don't think anyone really knows the scale of the effect of the downturn. However, experts from various fields all agree that although business will be down everywhere, if you want to do business anywhere in the next two years, probably one of the best places to be is in Poland. At the same time, it is our greatest risk-if the downturn hits us, it is likely to take many by surprise.

How important is Hilton's convention facility in promoting Warsaw?
The convention area has a lot of potential-each large event means tourists leaving the hotel to explore the city. That has its direct effect in money being spent around Warsaw, but also many people later come back with their partners or friends for a weekend trip. And because they have seen the destination-and I have to say that to date I haven't spoken with a single visitor who had not been amazed by the city-they then also consider it for organizing smaller meetings. However, please remember that even though we have fantastic facilities at the Hilton Warsaw, where we can accommodate 1,850 people for a conference, we are still a small player on the European scene. In my view Warsaw is in great need of being able to offer congress facilities for 5,000-plus participants in a way similar to Vienna, Barcelona, Amsterdam or Stockholm.

How does WDA membership help in achieving your aims?
I have been here for only a short time. Since I arrived the WDA has been very helpful in helping me find my feet in Warsaw; they introduced me to the city. The WDA has been very successful in bringing people together to work for a common goal. It is the same in every other industry, if you want to attract interest and volume to the destination, on your own you don't achieve half as much as when you all work together. Together with the WDA we can reach a much larger audience.

What is your impression of Warsaw?
Warsaw has been a very pleasant surprise. At the beginning I had no idea what to expect when I arrived. Warsaw is very accessible; it is very modern; people speak foreign languages very well. Poles are positive and enjoy life and that gives a fantastic feeling. This has made my first months in Warsaw a great experience.

My positive view on Poland is not just my personal view. Hilton as a company sees it as a key growth market. We have contracts signed for Hilton hotels in Gdańsk and Wrocław, as well as Hilton Garden Inn hotels in Warsaw's Mokotów district and in Rzeszów in southeast Poland. We are definitely ambitious to grow even further here.
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