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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » July 1, 2009
Destination Warsaw
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Working for Warsaw
July 1, 2009   
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Josef Kral, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Warsaw hotel-one of the longest serving members of the Warsaw Destination Alliance-talks to Jolanta Wolska.

What goals has the Warsaw Destination Alliance (WDA) set itself?
Our long term goals are to increase the activities of WDA, to ensure that we have funds to do that, and to focus on the opportunities that are opening up in the market, especially with the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) business. Warsaw has a huge untapped potential in that area, although currently we are limited, because we do not have the facilities to hold big conventions for say 6,000 to 8,000 people. Hence, one of our priorities has been to get a proper convention center for Warsaw. The convention industry is very big worldwide and Warsaw has the potential to get a share of that market.

We are making good headway with the city authorities and it is quite likely that by 2015 we will have a convention center next to the National Stadium.

What are WDA's short-term goals?
We concentrate on the MICE market but in the smaller arena. We try to have our WDA staff represent the industry, hotels and Warsaw at trade fairs and industry conferences to attract smaller conventions, meetings, conferences and product launches, to hold those events in Warsaw.

To overcome the economic crisis we are looking at being more inventive than others. We are offering value-added incentives for people to come here, to fully utilize our facilities; in fact Warsaw is still very price competitive with other cities.

The convention business not only benefits the hotel industry, but many other areas, such as restaurants, transport services, entertainment, the retail area, souvenir shopping, as well as special tourism attractions.

Does Hyatt have plans for expansion in Warsaw and in Poland?
At present we have earmarked one property in Warsaw, but it is a bit to early to discuss that. Further down the track we are also looking at secondary destinations like Cracow and possibly Gdańsk.

What is Hyatt's role within WDA and in the promotion of Warsaw?
We develop objectives for our industry together with other WDA members. Our aims are all the same, whichever hotel it is, what we want to do is to fill up the rooms and generate a legitimate return on investment. That is our key objective. We also promote Warsaw within our own companies; we try to get help from our colleagues in our other regional and area sales offices.

With which institutions does WDA cooperate to promote Warsaw as a business destination?
One of WDA's objectives was to develop a closer relationship with the Warsaw Tourist Office. We can achieve so much more for Warsaw if we combine our efforts. This took a little bit of time to achieve, but I have great hopes that it will work out as we plan-after all, we are all working towards promoting the same destination. There are still a few things that need to be fine-tuned, because one is a government institution and the other a private organization, but at least we are heading in the right direction.

We already work with Polish Tourism Organization (POT) on some projects and we are trying to develop closer ties with them as well.

What changes have you noticed since you arrived in Warsaw in 2005?
The biggest, but not necessarily the best, change is that the traffic has increased to quite a challenging degree, but then this is the short-term price that has to be paid to have new roads and highways. The beautification of the city is continuing in many areas and as we speak new paving is being put down in Ujazdowskie Avenue near Łazienki Park. A lot of old buildings are being restored, which adds to the overall positive imagine of the city. Despite the economic downturn there are still lots of cranes going up, indicating ongoing construction. Warsaw has come a long way in the last 20 years. I often like to go to the Old Town and see what new shops and restaurants have sprung up. I enjoy the variety of restaurants. Although it is of concern that there is little done to develop professionals in the hospitality industry. There is no proper technical school to teach the trade of becoming a cook, a chef or a waiter. In the near future we will need to look at this area if we want to be really competitive. The concept of apprenticeship schemes as used in many European countries would go a long way in developing technical specialists for our industry.
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