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March 21, 2023

Hopes that 2012 will stay under the sign of normality

Interview with Meda Vasiliu, Director of Sales and Marketing JW Marriott Bucharest Grand Hotel.

How would you characterize 2011 for the hotel market? Were there voices which argued that, after several years marked by falling trends, last year saw a recovery of the sector? Do people travel more compared to the past years? Is the number of tourists to Romania on the rise? And, finally, what would be the prospects for this year?

2011 was a dynamic year, which started in a promising way, maintained a steady trend until the end of the third quarter, then reacted to the influence of troubles in the eurozone, which pushed down the demand on the market and made people more reluctant to spend important sums of money on organizing events, New Year’s Eve parties, etc.

The defining trait for this year was unpredictability.

As regards the number of guests, taking into consideration that last year’s occupancy rate rose by nearly 6 pc compared to 2010, we could say that travels picked up steam or are, at least, on an upward spiral. However, we are light-years away from what the Bucharest hotel market used to be a couple of years ago, in terms of prices.

The Bucharest hotel market was one of the markets most sorely affected by the global economic crisis, according to the European Hotel Valuation Index 2011 study. How would you comment on this? How would you rate prices compared to prices in other South-Eastern European countries?

We could witness attempts by all four- and five-star hotels to hike prices compared to 2010 levels, backed by a slight rise in occupancy rate, but the clients remain reluctant to pay more in the context of the ongoing financial crisis. I believe event-hosting venues in Romania still retain an advantage over other destinations in Eastern Europe, that of the price-quality ratio. All we have to do is promote these facilities and draw clients by a concerted advertising strategy.

What could be done to make this sector more profitable for the industry and the clients alike?

As I already said, we should draw more international conferences and events which would add to the country’s prestige, while bringing it additional revenue in a range of other sectors (transports, restaurants, travel agents, etc.), the more so as there is a huge potential in Bucharest to host small (100 to 500 people) and large-scale conferences (500 to 800).

How do you feel about the introduction of the online tourist record system?

In my opinion, it is a rush measure, which hasn’t been thoroughly analyzed and which was decided upon without consulting tourism service-providers. I know efforts are being made to halt the introduction of this system and we are waiting to see the result of these endeavours initiated by professional associations in the sector. As far as I am concerned, this system raises a series of issues related to the violation of tourist information confidentiality and to the hiking of costs for tour operators. All of the above may lead, in time, to losing the clients’ trust and to reducing revenue and earnings.

How did the Marriott Hotel Bucharest fare in 2011?  How did you close the year, financially speaking? What can you tell us about the foreign tourists? What was the proportion of Romanian and foreign customers who checked into Marriott last year?

Year 2011 saw an advance compared with the previous one, with the occupancy rate and the number of customers slightly up, by nearly 5.5 pc namely. I however cannot give you revenue and profit figures. The proportion of foreign and Romanian customers was similar to that in the earlier years, namely 75-80 pc foreign and the remainder, Romanian.

What are your plans, goals for 2012? What are the novelties with which you will welcome your customers this year? How many customers do you expect?

We hope 2012 will stay under the sign of normality, without any major turmoil. Nonetheless, accurately assessing predictability is an almost impossible talk given the local turmoil and conditions so far this year.

We expect the occupancy rate to be similar to that in 2011, with a slight increase in the annual median rate compared to 2011. By and large, we seek a slight increase, of a few percentage points, on the Restaurant and Food & Beverage segment too, from last year.

We will conclude the refurbishment of the conference area in the first quarter of the year, which means a wholly revamped conference and event area starting from the coming March, with the latest relevant equipment. We will keep promoting our top class services, and our restaurants as well, but also maintain the kind of flexibility our customers have grown accustomed to.

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