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Part of the Landscape
June 3, 2014   
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Patrick Carabin, general manager of the Sofitel Warsaw Victoria Hotel, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

You spent many years managing hotels in Asia. Are hotels there run differently than in Poland or Europe?
The main difference is that Asian hotels are more focused on service. More staff are employed in Asian hotels and that is partly due to much lower labor costs.

Also, attention to service is part of Asian culture. In Europe we don’t pay as much attention to detail as in Asia, as we just don’t have the time. Additionally, more money is being put into hotels in Asia as there are better room rates than in Central and Eastern Europe, for example.

What is unique about the Sofitel hotel in Warsaw?
The hotel has an interesting history. It was built by a Polish-Swedish consortium in 1976 in place of the 19th-century Renaissance Kronenberg palace burned down by the Germans during World War II. The hotel was used as a backdrop for many films and soap operas. It has also hosted many eminent guests including former U.S. president Ronald Reagan and former Polish president Lech Wałęsa.

Ours is a luxury French brand hotel in the very heart of Warsaw, a few steps away from the Old Town, overlooking the 18th century Saski Park, Piłsudski Square with the Tomb of the Unknown Solder and the Grand Theater and National Opera House.

Sofitel brings to life the French concept of l’art de recevoir, known to Europe for centuries, which is combined with the finest of Polish traditions.

The interiors of the hotel were redesigned by renowned France-based interior designer Didier Gomez and the Kaczmarek Studio. What has been modernized?
We were delighted to be able to use Didier Gomez, who has worked for the biggest international brands such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Kenzo and Yves Saint-Laurent. He also worked on other Sofitel hotels in Europe. Gomez is known for his simple, classic and elegant style.

We have already renovated all the public areas, including two restaurants, the bar, lobby area and business center. Our unique conference and banquet facility includes 14 various-sized halls, which can accommodate 100 to 1,000 people. The Kaczmarek Studio has redesigned guest rooms. Renovations will be completed by the end of spring.

What is special about the Sofitel’s newly opened Le Victoria Brasserie Moderne restaurant?
It has mainly French cuisine with some Polish touches. Our famous chef, Maciej Majewski, trained in France and other places around the world. The restaurant reflects his inspiration from modern cuisine—he creatively combines the best classical traditions with nouvelle cuisine enriched by Polish influences. We bake our croissants, baguettes and sweet pastries to French recipes on the premises every day, as well as a variety of delicious Polish breads. Of course, we also have some great French wines as well as the best French imported cheeses.

How difficult is it to find good staff?
Like everywhere, it’s not easy, but the young generation in Poland is very motivated and competent and learns fast. Sofitel takes pains to offer top quality service and that’s why we conduct a lot of in-house training. We consider that to be a key to our success.

You are Belgian, but have Polish roots. Do you speak Polish?
My mother is Polish, she came to Belgium when she was three months old. We never spoke Polish at home, but I did learn from her a lot about Polish culture. I find it interesting to have done a full circle and to have come back to my roots. Before Warsaw I was at the Sofitel Grand Hotel in Sopot. I feel part of this land. I absolutely love Poland and I wouldn’t mind retiring here.
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