CEO of the Year, Austria
Vienna International Hotelmanagement AG looks back on more than 26 years of success, during which time it has focused on building and expanding its portfolio of hotels in the 3- to 5-star segment. CEO Rupert Simoner talks us through the group and the vast hotel portfolio it has built up during its 26 year lifetime.
Vienna International Hotelmanagement –repositioned in 2016 as Vienna House -has established itself as Austria's largest hotel group with its 38 hotels, four hotel lines and 2.200 employees operates in ten countries: from France to Russia, from the Polish Amber Coast up to the Austrian Vorarlberg. Among them top tourist destinations such as Berlin, Bratislava, Bucharest, Coburg, Carlsbad, Krakow, Lodz, Munich, Neckarsulm, Trier, Paris and Prague.
In September 2014, I took over the helm of VI with the goal of repositioning the company, establishing a clear brand strategy and putting into action all the necessary changes in order to do so. Along the way, we started by repositioning ourselves from the inside out, bringing the staff on board from the beginning, and so laying the foundation for future growth and continued commercial success.
My business strategy revolves around the lobby of each individual hotel. I know if a concept works out with one glimpse into the lobby. The lobby is the heart of a hotel. When a hotel lobby, or a restaurant or bar, are full of people making lively conversation, enjoying a relaxing drink or just passing the time, then the concept works. Everyone knows that a hotel has rooms, but the decisive difference lies in those areas where people come together.
Additionally, a new corporate culture only works when it is accepted and lived from the inside. All the employees were informed about the development steps from the beginning and kept up-to-date with regular news from myself and my management board colleague, hotel directors and direct management in open feedback discussions. National and international workshops provided additional support for the process.
We developed a “roadmap” for our new self-image of Vienna House which translates our core values into daily actions and in a simple and understandable way explains what optimal guest feedback, employee conduct, work environment and management understanding looks like at Vienna House.
Currently, the hotel market is in a state of flux which is providing us with a number of challenges. One of the most recent and already largest “hotel” providers, Airbnb, today has not appointed a single receptionist or housekeeper. In exchange, it offers supposed transparency and authentic, individual experiences at a favourable price.
Today's guests have excellent access to the most up-to-date information. Their thinking and actions are global, local and mobile at the same time, and they have a steadily increasing selection of options to choose from.
At the same time, people's understanding of value is undergoing a transformation. Traditional values such as luxury, in view of expensive status symbols, star categorisations and standards, are being replaced by personal, unique and, above all, one-of-a-kind experiences. People's self-image has become more value-conscious than status-oriented.
As such we have had to fight back, developing strengthening our Quality Management division creating new guidelines and standards. Derived from this is the new Touch Point Guide that specifies a small but well-reasoned number of new standards for the hotels. Furthermore rating portals are being analysed and documented in a professional and transparent way and linked to concrete actions.
We always question our actions and our conduct towards the guests and whomever we are facing (stakeholders, clients, partners, owners, media). All changes systematically derive from the guests' perspective – this is what we do.
This rebranding is due to be fully implemented by 1st February this year. A transformation process of this magnitude is implemented in steps. The first step was to define so-called flagships; the flagships have been remodelled, renovated and adapted. Other hotels are then remodelled in succession. Besides controlling costs and protecting the investment, this procedure has the advantage of adjusting concepts to the market and truly aligning all activities to the various requirements of the guests.
All changes systematically derive from the guests' perspective and include e.g. free high-speed internet access, mobile check-in/check-out as well as a personalised reception culture and an open lobby with living room or lounge. The meeting areas are being modernised with new interiors and creative, multifunctional spaces. The new restaurant, bar and breakfast concepts will focus on rationality. The issue of mobility is being addressed through bike stations, e-vehicle stations and car sharing stations. Top-quality room amenities, a kids’ world, as well as new and simple building services and modern technologies, such as charging stations at all tables or web-based concierge services, are just some of the additional guest-oriented changes.
Therefore, the future for our firm looks exciting, as we endeavour to ensure that our guests receive a top quality service and that we remain at the top of the ever changing hotel industry.
Company: Vienna House
Name: Betina Welter
Web Address: www.viennahouse.com
Address: Dresdner Straße 87, 1200 Vienna, Austria
Telephone: 0043 1 333 7373 55