Interview with Živorad Vasić, area GM at IHG

SOPHIE CLARKE (1)

A couple of months prior to the Best Stay conference we caught up with Area General Manager at IHG (Crowne Plaza Belgrade, InterContinental Ljubljana, InterContinental Sofia and InterContinental Bucharest), Mr Živorad Vasić. Read the full interview:

This year’s Best Stay conference will be focused on the best hospitality trends that work in practice. What, in your opinion, are the current trends making the biggest changes in the hotel industry?
The biggest trends in the hospitality industry are that today everyone can offer a nice room, a good shower, a decent breakfast, a TV – we have great 3,4,5 star hotels and each customer can choose where do they wanna go.
The two biggest differences are that now without a great customer service, without staff training, we cannot succeed and there are many types of reports that measure customer service in branded hotels. Great hotels that scored 90% or above in customer satisfaction, they are the ones winning the guests over and over again. Alternatively, hotels not delivering quality service, regardless of what type of luxury rooms they offer, they will not get the business.
Another trend is that people are travelling to the undiscovered areas, so I think cities like Belgrade, Ljubljana, Zagreb or even a country like Montenegro, are growing in business more than any other place in Europe because people have seen Rome, Berlin and Paris but they haven’t seen these cities.

 

As an awarded manager in hospitality, what would you point out as the necessary qualities a leader should have?
You would be surprised how many times I have realised managers would do a much better job than the general managers. All general managers make mistakes, often they don’t ask open questions to their staff and don’t empower their managers to deliver.
In my experience, when you ask an open-ended question you will be surprised to find out how your managers will react and reply to that. Most of the times they would come up with better ideas than I could have thought of myself, which is a good thing.

 

At Best Stay, you will be participating on a panel regarding the future of hospitality and what do we expect to see in the next five to ten years – can you give us a short insight into the discussion?
At Best Stay conference there will be significant talk about what will happen in the next 5 to 10 years. The biggest trend I see happening in the next years is a tremendous opening of 3 star branded hotels. Why is that? Because these hotels offer clean rooms, quality beds, good WIFI connection and make much more money than 4 or 5 star hotels can as they have a lower investment.
Therefore, brands like IHG, Accor Hotels, Hyatt, Hilton or Starwood will probably be opening more and more 3 star hotels.

 

There is significant talk lately about insufficient qualified staff in the region. Do you at your hotel come face to face with the same problem? If yes, how do you deal with it?
I think everyone faces the question of quality staff. High-quality staff is difficult to find and if we don’t open training centres we will be in trouble. Here’s what’s happening:
When you’re looking for a good waiter or a good housekeeper here in Belgrade, you can’t find them because they are travelling to Croatia or Slovenia as salaries there are much higher. Quality staff from Croatia and Slovenia are for the same reason travelling to Italy, Austria, those from Italy, Austria to Scandinavian countries and the quality people from Scandinavian countries, they are travelling to the U.S.
We are seeing an insufficient number of educated people and, unless we start educating them in high-quality training centres, providing people not only with remuneration but much more, and therefore making them loyal to the company, we will have a difficult time.

 

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Best Stay?
I think at the Best Stay conference there are many things that I’ll enjoy, but I think the most important is networking and I expect to meet great people, people with experience, great future partners and/or colleagues. I look forward to meeting all my colleagues at the Best Stay conference.

 

You can meet up with Živorad at Best Stay conference. He will be participating on a panel (November 9) regarding the future of the hospitality industry. Register now and don’t miss out on the opportunity of seeing your colleagues and meeting new interesting people from the industry.

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