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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » September 28, 2012
Destination Warsaw
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In-the-Know Experience
September 28, 2012   
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Christian Henkemeier, general manager of the InterContinental Warsaw Hotel, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

Has the hotel changed its client strategy since it opened nine years ago?
We constantly modify our strategy to suit the changing economic and competitive situation, as well as the needs of our guests. When we opened in late 2003 it was a matter of getting our market share in the five-star hotel market. Of course, with a 44-story landmark building, where every room has breathtaking views of Warsaw, some benefits were given.

Since then, we have been driving a strategy of providing our clients and guests with superior value and wrapping this in personal service and an individual “in-the-know” experience, with a local flavor. Apart from updating technology and other hardware, in 2012 we have for example converted one of our restaurants, formerly Mexican, into a Polish fine-dining experience by renowned chef Karol Okrasa.
And next year we plan to do a more extensive hotel room renovation.

What Polish dishes do you like?
I am from northern Germany and my grandmother was Polish, so I am used to Northern/Polish-style food and I love it. In Germany we also eat a lot of cabbage, pork, etc. I love duck—and Poland has some of the best. Pierogi is also a favorite, smoked fish from the Mazurian region and of course I love pork knuckle and bigos.

How would you sum up your five years in Warsaw?
I had never before been to Poland, even on a visit, despite the proximity and my partially Polish background. It was a very positive surprise for me when I came here, as it still is for most people who come to this country for the first time. I was made very welcome by the community, by the team, and together we have achieved better results with every year despite the economic turmoil, and 2011 was our best ever year in every respect. The InterContinental Warsaw was awarded the IHG award for consistent guest evaluations, overall results and for our efforts in corporate social responsibility. We have the highest team satisfaction in our group despite the fact that today we have the leanest team since we opened, and it is the most efficient.

Has the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 affected your hotel’s business?
Fortunately not. We were able to counteract a small shortfall of revenues with smart savings. 2012 so far has been excellent for us even beyond the positive impact of Euro 2012, but I think Poland will start to feel some negative effects next year.

Poland has been stable and has built up a strong reputation that I feel will hold up to the end of the year. Next year will be tough for everyone.

What have you enjoyed about Poland and Warsaw?
I have enjoyed the people. I live and work downtown and love the life in the city among the locals. I live in the heart of Warsaw in the Powi¶le neighborhood. Warsaw has its rough edges, but it is also very authentic and a work-in-progress city. There are a lot of things happening here. Getting around is easy, and culturally there is more than I can handle, from opera, concerts, theater to a very vivid art scene beyond.

People constantly come up with new things. Many of the young people here are doing something productive and they are working hard and also studying. Young people are consuming knowledge in great quantities, ever so much more, I dare say, than in other parts of Europe, generally with great optimism. That is very impressive.

I have enjoyed the cooperation with Warsaw Destination Alliance and The Warsaw Voice. I will miss being in Warsaw, and will definitely come back to visit all the friends I made here, as well as some places that I didn’t have a chance to see yet, or the new ones that come up.
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