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The Warsaw Voice » Destination Warsaw » January 30, 2014
Destination Warsaw
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Promoting Warsaw
January 30, 2014   
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Alex Kloszewski, Managing Partner of advisory and management services firm Hotel Professionals, President of the Warsaw Destination Alliance and Vice President of the Warsaw Tourist Organization, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

How did you start working in the hotel industry?
It was a coincidence as I studied mechanical engineering. In 1973 I was returning to Los Angeles from a trip to Argentina and saw the Marriott Hotel being built at the airport, so I inquired about a job. I started working there as a doorman and worked my way up. I love the hotel industry.

You were born in Poznań, western Poland, and moved to the United States at the age of six. What made you return to Poland?
When in 1992 I was invited to be general manager of the Radisson Hotel in Szczecin it was actually my Mexican wife who was keen for us to come to Poland. I never imagined I would return here, and it was a quick learning curve as I had not visited Poland since childhood. In 1995 I was sent to Aruba as the general manager of the Radisson Aruba Resort and Casino. And then I came back to Poland to be the chief operations officer of Global Hotels, which were developing and operating Holiday Inn hotels in Poland, in 2000. After that there were other positions in the hotel industry. During the last nine years I was a partner at Colliers Poland working on over 300 projects and mandates, including seven Hilton hotels, two Holiday Inn hotels and the Andel’s hotel in ŁódĽ.

What made you leave Colliers?
I had been musing over starting my own consultancy for a few years. Essentially there were four reasons. The first was that I realized there were shortcomings in the pricing of our services, and I had very little flexibility on pricing at Colliers.

Secondly, I could not manage hotels as it was not Colliers’ core business. Thirdly, I felt that after nine years in the industry my name and my brand was recognizable and so I felt having my own consultancy would benefit me more financially. And finally, I wanted to leave something to my son Patrick, who had been working side by side with me at Colliers. Our partners Jacek Tokarski and Magda Kossowska, along with Patrick and I, are the leading experts in the hotel investment advisory field and so we can have the lion’s share of the business.

What will Hotel Professionals be focusing on?
Initially we will promote our company’s new pricing strategy, meet with new clients and all the banks with which we want to rekindle a relationship under our own flag. We will continue to serve our existing clients, Colliers in Poland and the Central and Eastern Europe region as a whole, as well as consulting real estate agencies and the major hotel chains including Hilton, IHG, Starwood, Wyndham, Marriott, Rezidor and Accor. We will also expand into some other fields, such as managing hotels interim. In this area we will particularly concentrate on independently owned hotels that are not performing well and help them to reposition, restructure and become successful.

We want to be more involved in conferences and attending industry seminars and workshops. I am also thinking of opening a hotel school in Cracow. We have good courses in the hospitality industry, such as the culinary arts, front desk and housekeeping matters. But we do not have appropriate courses in areas such as hotel investment and hotel management. But for that we need to find a financial partner.

Why did you establish the Warsaw Destination Alliance (WDA)?
In 2000 I felt that the Warsaw local authorities weren’t managing the promotion and marketing of the capital as a destination adequately and so I got a group of major hotels together to start doing that. Our mission was to work together to promote Warsaw and to bring in more leisure, business and conference business. The WDA was the first organization in Poland to promote the city in international mass media, including on CNN, the BBC and in the International Herald Tribune. We were successful in attracting local government funds for some of the projects. After a few years of successful promotion we felt that the city authorities ought to be doing that and we started to be more of a lobbying group.

This resulted in the WDA being invited to handle all the accommodation coordination work for the COP19 climate change conference held in November last year. While overall the conference was successful, it was not the most profitable one. Twelve months earlier, we had been led to believe, both by the UN and the Polish environment ministry, that 15,000 delegates would arrive; in fact, only half that number came. Having said that, it was the first time in the history of Warsaw that the entire hotel industry successfully worked in tandem under the WDA umbrella to ensure that delegates were offered sustainable rates for each category of hotel. We did this to ensure that there would not be a repeat of sudden, unreasonable rate increases by hotels. And we succeeded in this.

Eighteen months ago you were one of the co-founders of the Warsaw Tourist Organization (WOT). Why not leave the promotional work to the Warsaw authorities?
We need a public-private organization that will have the tools to vigorously work to promote Warsaw and manage all the diverse interests of the various groups that make up the tourist and conference industries. Such an organization is in a better position to do that than a government authority.

Also, at the end of 2013 the Warsaw Convention Bureau—part of Warsaw City Hall’s Warsaw Tourist Office—was disbanded. It had very little communication with the private sector and no interaction with hotels. It was totally ineffective and inefficient.

There are plans to establish a new public-private entity, similar in structure to convention bureaus in other countries. I provided the deputy mayor of Warsaw with a business plan to set up such an organization with a suggested budget of zl.1.5 million. The convention bureau will not be effective with a smaller annual budget. Every city in Europe has a convention bureau and they are all competing with Warsaw.

So with WOT and the new Convention Bureau why do we need the WDA?
That is a very good question. In the end the WDA will not be needed, as its current activities will probably flow into the convention bureau and WOT. It is not about the name but about the efficiency of getting things done. The WDA is one of the most respected NGOs in Poland. I envisage that the WDA will be able to carry out joint ventures with the new convention bureau in bringing congresses to Warsaw.
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