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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » August 1, 2013
Destination Warsaw
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City of Contrasts
August 1, 2013   
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Peter Mikkelsen, General Manager of the Radisson Blu Sobieski Hotel in Warsaw, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

You started your job just before the Euro 2012 soccer championships last year. Was the event beneficial for the hotel business?
Those four weeks were very good for the hotel business. I loved people coming and going. There was a great atmosphere in the city, and it was great to see so many people having fun. There was a special buzz in the city. I expect the same will happen with the COP19 climate conference here in November. I think the Warsaw Destination Alliance has done an excellent job promoting Warsaw for conferences and conventions. This city has great facilities on a par with those in the old traditional conference destinations.

Have you made any changes to the hotel?
The hotel was built in 1992. A Norwegian company bought it in 2011 and committed a lot of funds to fully renovate the entire hotel by 2015. The reception areas have already been renovated and we have almost finished refurbishing all the hotel bedrooms. Then we will start on the conference areas.

Are there plans to change the color scheme of the exterior of the building, which has become quite a landmark in Warsaw?
That’s a good question. Legally, I cannot change the exterior as there is copyright on the facade; it belongs to the family of the Italian architect who designed the building in 1991. But we are negotiating with the family and hope to get permission to change the facade. At this stage we do not have anything specific in mind. If we reach an agreement we might commission a Polish architect to redesign the exterior or organize a competition. When I wander around Warsaw I notice many beautiful new architectural projects around the city, so perhaps a competition would give us many fresh and exciting ideas.

Is it hard to find qualified staff in the hotel industry in Poland?
Yes, it is very hard, because young people do not want to work on weekends and in the evenings. That is not only a Polish thing. But that means that there are great chances for those who want to make a career in the hotel business. In our industry you can advance and be promoted much faster than in other industries.

What proportion of your hotel guests are foreigners?
It’s very interesting because of the history of the hotel the majority of our hotel guests are actually Polish. They either work for international companies, work for Polish companies or are Polish businessmen. We have many loyal guests who have been coming here for more than 15 years.

How do you like Warsaw?
I’ve been positively surprised since I came here. However, I do not like that Polish drivers are very aggressive. Everything here seems to work quite well, although Polish people are very critical about their own achievements and expectations. Yet, the service here is no worse or better than in other countries.

Of course, Warsaw is not Poland, but then Copenhagen is not Denmark, and London is not England. I always say that Warsaw is a city of contrasts. When you walk down the street, one minute you think you are in Manhattan with modern architecture and high-rise buildings, and the next minute around the corner you are among the old communist architecture. I think this contrast is interesting. And then you have the Old Town, which is magnificent, Łazienki Park, and the Royal Route—there are many beautiful places to enjoy here. Warsaw has everything. It is a very vibrant city.

I like to go to the Old Market Square for lunch—you would think you are somewhere in the south of France. There are so many great restaurants in Warsaw. I am surprised that there is only one Michelin-star restaurant here.
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