The gal was in Budapest for the fourth annual Hotel Investment Platform CEE & Caucasus HOTCO, hosted once again at Kempinski Hotel Corvinus, Budapest. Opening keynote speaker was Martin Smura, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Kempinski, and he joined Stephan Interthal in cutting a two-foot long scarlet cake, in front of all four of the hotel’s Ladies in Red, and HOTCO delegates, at the official evening party. Ladies in Red are found in all Kempinski hotels – they usually have desks in lobbies, or they work from front desks.
Keynote speaker on the second day was Liam Brown, Marriott’s boss for Europe, Middle East and Africa – he would not be drawn on opportunities for Luxury Collection and St Regis in CEE/Caucasus. He did say that Bonvoy, Marriott’s loyalty programme, is for him the cream of all Marriott’s brands. A few years ago such topics as talent, and even f&b, sustainability and wellness, never featured on an investment agenda. Now it is realised that as more and more hotels are being developed, finding people to work in them is increasingly difficult – in Budapest, where the unemployment rate is 3.8%, workforce competition is heightened by BMW’s new production line, which requires a team of 4,000. The talent panel included the always-dynamic Cornelia Kausch, MD of CK Hospitality Advisors (the more individualised the career path, the more loyal the team member, she says).Wellness warranted a solo HOTCO performance from Ingo Schweder, who multi-skills heading GOCO Hospitality and Horwath HTL’s wellness group. Wellness real estate has seen 7.7% growth 2013-2017 and is forecast for a further 8% growth by 2022. 50% of the world’s 749 wellness communities are in North America, and Schweder used as case study GOCO’s own Glen Ivy Hot Springs, Corona CA, an 800-person day-visiting spa facility with growing educational programmes which will be boosted by proper lodging.
Kempinski Hotel Corvinus is a very thought, and efficient, 351-room hotel. At breakfast at ES Biztro warm croissants are carried around, which is a nice touch. Day, and evening, long, the 200-metre long passage from the bistro to the front lobby has become art gallery plus co-working – currently, paintings by Gábor Krü are showing. Lots of well-lit comfy seating and electric sockets, and free WiFi, means every seat is taken, sometimes for hours on end. As Stephan Interthal explains, this establishes relationships with locals, and nearly everyone buys something from the food and drink kiosk that seems to have been converted from a small wall cupboard. This luxury hotel looks after wellness and culture – there is a good gym. From front facing rooms, say 714, you look out at Erzsébet Tér and its Ferris wheel, as shown above.