|Gonçalo Duarte Silva says Starwood is looking to expand beyond the three Polish cities in which it currently has hotels|
Courtesy of Starwood hotels
Karolina Kowalska: After its z³.50 million refurbishing, Hotel Bristol Warsaw joined Starwood’s most prestigious brand, the Luxury Collection. Why was this decision made?
Gonçalo Duarte Silva: The Luxury Collection brand consists of just 80 five-star hotels around the globe. Each of them is special in terms of its architectural design, its history and historical significance. It is more of an art collection than a brand, as it comprises a variety of unique decorations and styles. Hotel Bristol, a witness to Warsaw’s history and one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, seemed a natural choice.
Does that mean the company decided to position Warsaw as a luxury destination?
With the country’s economic growth and with increasing foreign capital involvement, the city attracts an increasing number of luxury clients. While making our decision regarding Hotel Bristol, we talked to the experts in the local market who claim Warsaw has the potential to attract a substantial number of new, affluent travelers and businesspeople.
Who are Luxury Collection guests?
This is a group of clients that appreciate a luxurious environment and want a hotel that is unique in terms of history and design, and will help them unlock the Warsaw which is not presented in travel guides. Luxury Collection guests are more explorers than tourists, people who still want to travel in a traditional manner, taking time to get to know the city with its unique history and atmosphere. They want the building they are staying in to give them insight into the local traditions and way of life. Hotel Bristol, with its vibrant history as a host to the most important cultural events of the pre-war era and a witness to many historical events such as the Warsaw Uprising, is an ideal place for them.
They find the modern way of sightseeing, where you are supposed to get to know a city in two days, too superficial. The Luxury Collection makes the whole experience more personal.
How exactly do you make the experience more personal?
Our well-trained concierges, all members of the prestigeous Les Clefs d’Or association, make sure they understand our guests’ needs, so they can suggest attractions and sights ideally suited to their tastes. That is why our concierges are chosen from among local residents who know their city very well.
If you want to cater to the needs of a true explorer, you need thorough knowledge not only of the city, but also of the guest’s predilections. If they have a taste for Coca-Cola Zero, unsalted peanuts and green apples, they will find them in their room, together with their favorite international newspaper. Being experts in indulging our guests distinguishes us from the others. It is not something I can put on paper, rather a philosophy that we are trying to incorporate in everything we do.
We train our staff to understand that if a customer comes to discover the city, the hotel needs to be part of that experience. For instance, we offer our guests traditional Polish tea or roast duck in our restaurant. We even introduced a new cocktail called Nocturn Frizz, composed especially for Hotel Bristol with typically Polish ingredients, such as ¯ubrówka and dill. We preserved Bristol’s Café, one of the city’s landmarks, knowing that it would give the hotel a genuine Warsaw experience.
You said you adapted Hotel Bristol to modern standards. In what way?
The hotel was adapted to the contemporary luxury market standards. The interiors are lavishly furnished but the colors are calm and discreetly elegant. We opened a wellness center that offers our guests an opportunity to relax. We added a wine bar overlooking the street where Varsovians and our guests can sit with a glass of wine. We make sure all the latest conveniences are at our guests’ disposal.
You said Starwood will not only advertise Hotel Bristol abroad but that you also want to become Warsaw’s ambassador. How do you intend to do this?
In every Starwood hotel room in EMEA, SPG TV is the first TV channel. SPG TV shows our most interesting destinations and things you can do during your stay. When promoting Warsaw as a destination, we will be showcasing the city’s landmarks such as The Royal Route, £azienki Park and Wilanów Palace, but also its cultural offers, as we believe we have plenty of activities to attract global explorers. Our PR department works very hard to publicize both the hotel and the city and to make sure our publicity reaches all our existing and potential clients. For instance we will put up Warsaw’s best views and landmarks on our Luxury Collection website.
You have recently been appointed the new managing director in Poland. What are your goals?
I would definitely like to expand our brands in Poland. Right now we are present in four cities: Warsaw, with Sheraton, Westin and the new addition – Hotel Bristol; Sopot with the Sheraton hotel and spa as well as Kraków and Poznañ with Sheraton. We are therefore thinking of opening our hotels in other major Polish cities, like Wroc³aw and £ód¼. We are also planning to introduce two new brands – Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton – which we think would add value to those destinations’ hotel markets.
Currently, we are in talks with potential investors on launching those brands. I think for the Polish market Aloft could be an interesting brand, which is targeted at younger travelers and businesspeople. It is more design-oriented and we call it a “select-service brand.” It is not a premium brand, like Luxury Collection or Sheraton, but gives our guest plenty of options to choose from. It has iPad docking stations in rooms and public areas designed to support the social aspect of travel.
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