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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » November 25, 2011
Destination Warsaw
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Warsaw is a Sexy City
November 25, 2011   
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Alexander Suski, director of sales and marketing at the InterContinental Hotel Warszawa, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

Had you been to Warsaw before you took up the post at the InterContinental Hotel 18 months ago?
I was in Poland 20 years ago when I was a young boy. The only thing I remember is the smell and taste of grilled kie³basa (sausage) with mustard and ketchup. The memory I have of Warsaw from those days is that it was gray and grim looking.

Were you surprised how Warsaw looks today?
Yes, and no, because I expected some kind of Westernization, but I was really surprised with the ongoing developments in the 18 months I have been here. It is amazing. I love today’s vibrant Warsaw.

Polish people have a reputation abroad for being the best workers. I am really surprised by the current ongoing development. It is a pity that some projects take too long to complete, such as roads, since that is what really affects the business development and reduces the ability to better sell Warsaw as a “sexy” destination abroad for big conventions and congresses.

How do you sell Warsaw when you go to international meetings and forums? How do you promote the city?
When industry experts ask me “What does Warsaw have to offer?” I have a tendency to reverse the question and ask them what they expect. Everything that they ask for Warsaw can offer. Take the new Warsaw Chopin Airport less than 20 minutes away (8 km) from the city center, inexpensive taxis and an efficient bus service into town. Entertainment is all over Warsaw, from paintball games and old tram rides in the city center to vodka tasting in the original breweries.

I show people all the activities and things that are possible here. When I talk about my hotel, for example, which has the highest located swimming pool in Europe, people think I’m talking about any capital but Warsaw. Generally, the perception of Warsaw is still very low in the travel industry. Sales agents abroad don’t talk about Warsaw because they don’t know about it yet—but this is all about to change in the coming years.

I am trying to facilitate and assist in the revival of the image of Warsaw as a progressive, modern, lively and “sexy” city. These I feel are its unique selling points.

I would love to see all the taxis in Warsaw made uniform in red and white colors, with proper rules and regulations so that they all provide consistent service. I think it would be really good for the capital’s image just like you have in Berlin, London or Barcelona.

Is it more difficult to promote Warsaw than cities in your home country, Belgium, or Amsterdam, where you worked?
I find Warsaw easy to promote and this is very exciting. To promote other capitals one just has to remind people that they are there, while Warsaw is a whole new discovery, and everything you tell foreigners is news to them, so it is more memorable and fascinating. The most important thing is to share the fire and passion for this fantastic place.

There is room for improvement locally; there is not yet a mindset that drives everyone to a common-destination marketing goal: “selling Warsaw.” I hope that will change soon and I will certainly assist wherever I can together with the Warsaw Destination Alliance.

Do you feel a foreigner is in a better position to promote Warsaw than a local?
I think so. I am more objective so more believable. I see Warsaw with the same eyes as another foreigner. And I have the same needs and expectations. In fact, a campaign currently being conducted by the Polish Tourist Organization (POT) is doing exactly that, it has foreigners extolling the virtues of Warsaw and Poland in their home country after coming back from here.

Do foreigners complain about anything in Warsaw?
Honestly, no. Everyone who comes here is pleasantly surprised and their expectations are exceeded. Everything is positive and a bonus. This is a great city and also one that has everything that any other city has to offer.
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