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May 28, 2013   
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Erwin Verhoog, general manager of the Hilton Warsaw Hotel and Convention Center, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

What new initiatives is the Hilton Warsaw planning this year?
We try to come up with new things all the time. At the end of May we launched a barbecue concept with our Axis bar so that groups of 40-150 people can have a party location, with a chef doing the BBQ and a DJ or live music. Also, we will continue to concentrate on attracting international business. The Hilton Group has five hotels in Poland already and a further five hotels will be opened early next year under different names.

What is Warsaw’s selling point in attracting tourists?
Many people abroad don’t realize that the moment one lands in Warsaw the feeling is that it is a 100-percent modern European city. Warsaw’s Chopin Airport stands up against any other modern airport in Europe. You get into a taxi, along the way you see tree-lined streets, the metro, trams, fantastic infrastructure, high-rise buildings. Warsaw has everything that every other modern European city has and more. And within 15 minutes you are in the downtown Hilton hotel, which is a walking distance from the city center.

Are there any new destinations from which you want to attract international guests to the hotel?
We have the traditional European markets like the UK, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France that still have great potential. Both business and leisure guests have been to other destinations such as Prague, Vienna or Istanbul, so they are ready for something new. And if we effectively promote the incredible value, great restaurants and clubs, lots to see and experience and friendly people in Warsaw then we will have these travelers coming back for more.

People like to take a short break, and with the budget airlines and tourist partners, we can package the trip to Warsaw and make it an exciting experience at an affordable price. We are getting more inquiries from tour operators and individual travelers this year than in previous years. So it is really becoming evident that all the work done by hotels to promote their Warsaw sites, together with the work of the Warsaw Destination Alliance and the newly established Warsaw Tourist Organization to push the Warsaw destination in general is really starting to pay off.

China is one of the emerging markets for us. We had a large delegation from there just recently. The Hilton Group is building many hotels in China so our brand recognition is growing among Chinese travelers. Also, the Israeli market is one of the historical and traditional markets that is a big untapped market for us in Warsaw. The new Museum of the History of Polish Jews not far from the Hilton can be an additional draw.

The Hilton has been selected as one of the hotels to accommodate delegates to the COP19 UN climate change conference that will take place in Warsaw in November.
Yes, and because we have 3,500 sq m of conference space and can accommodate up to 1,200 people in our largest conference hall, we expect to be organizing complementary meetings, product displays and mini conferences accompanying the main event.

What proportion of leisure tourists to business guests do you have in the Hilton hotel?
Corporate guests represent about 75 percent of our hotel guests. From Monday to Thursday we accommodate the business traveler and that is also due to the nature of our conference facilities. Weekends provide for leisure guests—although, I would say, that in this category Warsaw still needs to be discovered and promoted more.

Do you like Polish food?
We promote local flavors and local ingredients in the hotel’s restaurant. My personal favorite are all the pickles and the unbelievable variety of smoked fish.
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