The Warsaw Voice » Business » Monthly - July 18, 2017
Business
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Where Legends Meet
   
Philippe Godard, AccorHotels Vice President for Operations Luxury and Upscale Eastern Europe and also General Manager of the legendary Sofitel Warsaw Victoria, talks to the Voice.

After two years in Warsaw, how do you feel about the city?
Yes, it’s almost two years! Long enough to confirm that along with my family, we enjoy the city a lot. It isn’t a city easily described in just few words, however what I would like to highlight is that it is modern, efficient, fast-moving, booming with energy and development, with excellent communications both inside the city and with the outside world. It can boast state-of-art architecture, city infrastructure, museums and galleries, and not to forget modern and very well located shopping centers and beautiful parks. The quality of living here is excellent. Warsaw is an example of how a very modern European city can and should be. From a hotelier’s perspective I believe those facts need to be more highlighted internationally. It would bring even more interest towards the city in terms of tourism, foreign investment, conferencing etc.

How well does a luxury brand like Sofitel perform in Warsaw? In market terms, is Poland ready for Sofitel and other luxury brands offered by AccorHotels?
Definitely Warsaw and some other big cities in Poland are ready for hotel luxury brands. Forty percent of Sofitel Warsaw Victoria’s guests are traveling Poles who love to stay here and enjoy the legendary quality of the service and unbeatable Parisian-like climate of our properties. Our prestigious events bring together people from the cultural sector, business and media. A good example was the “La Parisienne” photography exhibition this spring. The exhibition was a journey in time to Paris as the capital of fashion and culture. It featured iconic photos, dating back to the 1950s, showing the world’s most celebrated women of those days, like Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Coco Chanel and Sophia Loren. The collection will travel to other Sofitel destinations in Europe and outside the continent.

The Sofitel brand is a legend in itself. In Warsaw it meets another local legend called the Victoria Hotel, the first hotel in Warsaw and likely in Poland that offered European standards in the communist mid-70s period of the 20th century. It is difficult now for many Poles to realize that the Victoria was then an icon of near-unattainable luxury. There were songs about the place and many Polish movie directors used the hotel as a shooting location. How does it feel to take over a legend?
Yes, the Victoria has the aura of a legend and symbol in Warsaw and a familiar place to those visitors who have a long connection with Warsaw and Poland. Some of our regular guests have been coming to the hotel over the past four decades and only stay with us while in Warsaw. We feel an obligation to maintain special attention to the tradition and history of the place. Sofitel Warsaw Victoria also enjoys a prestigious location – in the very center of the city, in a historic location, near the Grand Theatre, the Royal Castle and the Old Town. It could be compared to the Place de la Concorde in Paris!

Let’s talk a little about hotel business in Poland: what observations can you offer?
From the business point of view, Poland and especially Warsaw offer numerous opportunities. Orbis, a Polish company with a pre-war tradition who operates the AccorHotels brands like Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Mercure, ibis, ibis Styles and ibis budget in Poland and in 8 other countries of Eastern Europe, notes excellent results. Poland has developed fast and Poland as a main travel destination offers high quality standards for still very attractive prices enabling visitors to obtain excellent value for their money.

One more reason to visit Poland?
But with a stress on “one more”. When we ask our clients about why they visit Warsaw for the first time, they don’t rate value for money as the main reason. They travel to Warsaw with curiosity about the city and what it represents or to pursue potential business opportunities. I believe that Poland has a lot of potential as a tourist destination. Last year Warsaw hosted the NATO Summit and Poland welcomed the International Youth Festival. Those events focused a lot of attention on Poland and we recorded a significant growth in the number of visits to our hotels. First-time visitors were positively surprised with what they found here.

Let us talk about the potential of the meetings sector in Poland: what is your opinion of Warsaw as an international meetings destination? What kind of future potential do you see here?
The meeting industry is a driver in many popular international destinations: by creating jobs, business and a lot of good international communication. Poland and Warsaw in particular, have a lot to recommend as things are presently and possess considerable potential. However, a large congress venue like other European meeting destinations can offer, is lacking. Warsaw has very good infrastructure for smaller to medium meetings and conferences, but we are unable to compete for major events. The city and the country therefore forfeit considerable potential revenue as well as business and direct investment opportunities, that include international exposure which accompanies large congresses and conventions. We definitely need a large congress venue in Warsaw to make the city one of the most popular meetings destinations in Europe.