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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » March 29, 2012
Destination Warsaw
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Ready for a Challenge
March 29, 2012   
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Tomasz Kułakowski, director of the Warsaw Tourist Organization (WOT), speaks to Jolanta Wolska.

What attracted you to apply for the job of director of the newly established WOT organization?
Two aspects attracted me. Firstly, that it’s a brand-new organization and I have quite a lot of experience in starting up new businesses; I love that challenge. Secondly, it is an exciting time to try to work out how to promote Warsaw after Euro 2012 with all the corresponding investments, including the National Stadium. We will review Warsaw’s tourist policy and determine whether to promote the city as a single tourist destination or a business destination or a meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) destination. I had previously worked for Ryanair and LOT airlines so I also have experience in the general tourist industry as well.

What are WOT’s strategic objectives?
We are at an early stage; we will now start to develop key strategies in consultation with our members and stakeholders. One of the key strategies will be to promote Warsaw abroad to attract MICE business, particularly convention organizers; of course, that will need to be done together with the Warsaw Convention Bureau. We believe that Warsaw has enough attractions to draw a lot more MICE business. Currently, Warsaw’s position in this sphere is weak. We compete with Tallinn and Vilnius in this part of Europe, which are smaller than Warsaw, while we have a greater potential and should be more comparable to Prague or Budapest. But I also feel that we can compete with Vienna, Paris or London.

In which countries will WOT concentrate its promotional activities?
We’ll work in line with the national Polish Tourism Organization (POT) strategy, where the key markets are Germany, France and Britain. However, I feel that we don’t have to follow only the main strategy—I like to look sideways as well. I think Russia is an interesting market for us and I will try to persuade the WOT board to think even wider.

What does Warsaw have to offer that Germany, Britain or France do not?
That’s a good question. Obviously it’s not enough just to be a capital city. We have an interesting combination that can be highlighted to potential business partners. First of all, Poland is still a growing economy and slightly better than others in Europe, so the potential is here. Euro 2012 will ensure that a lot of attention will be focused on Poland and that has to be utilized somehow. We don’t want Warsaw to be forgotten after the football championships. Warsaw is a very vibrant city, there is a lot going on culturally here and the cuisine is really very good. It is the combination of different attractions in one package, i.e. culture, cuisine and business opportunities.

According to several surveys, Warsaw’s image abroad is either non-existent or not particularly positive. How are you going to turn that around?
It is a difficult task that will not bring results quickly. I should point out that such unfair poor perceptions take a long time to change. Changes don’t happen overnight or over a year or even two. I believe we need a long-term strategy; it’s a long process that can take even up to ten years. I feel that POT does a great job abroad promoting positive associations—that Poland is a country with many young and talented people, a growing economy, and so on. It is also good that Warsaw City Hall has joined with 15 other organizations in one organization - WOT - to work on changing negative stereotypes abroad.

Given that there is insufficient infrastructure in Warsaw to carry big MICE projects, how will Warsaw look if it promises and doesn’t deliver?

Yes, it can be a potential problem, and people involved must understand that. One of WOT’s tasks will be to lobby to build bigger venues and more 5, 4, 3-star hotels and we will try to help investors achieve that.

What is WOT’s budget to achieve these objectives?
WOT will not be earning money as we are not a commercial organization. WOT will be financed by its members and at least for the first couple of years the biggest membership fee will be paid by Warsaw City Hall. Overall, our budget will be just under zl.1 million in the first year. Currently nothing exists other than the name of the organization.

Our role is not to produce campaigns or promotional initiatives, but rather to set general policy, identify areas that we should focus on, determine strategies and help member organizations achieve their aims in a way that coordinates everyone’s effort.
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