Posted on Tuesday 30 March 2010 by Ulster Business

Gerard Kelly (left) in the foyer of the Park Inn Hotel in Belfast with Han Oldenburger.

The all-island hotel sector has been through significant changes over the last 10 years and now boasts an offering for every taste and pocket. We hear from Han Oldenburger, Regional Director for The Rezidor Hotel Group in Ireland, on how his hotels are performing in a challenging trading environment.

What is your experience prior to taking up your position with Rezidor? I have been working in the hotel industry for the past 40 years, and have been working with The Rezidor Hotel Group for the last 20 of these years. I have held a number of general manager positions with other companies in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Switzerland. I was appointed Regional Director/Area Vice President with The Rezidor Hotel Group in 1992, and worked in Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. I took up my current role as Regional Director Ireland in March 2009. What are your plans for the group in the next few years in Ireland? The Rezidor Hotel Group is the largest international hotel group in Ireland/Northern Ireland, currently operating 15 hotels on the island. There are 13 Radisson Blu hotels, 11 in the Republic and two in Northern Ireland. These include one hotel in Belfast and three in Dublin, plus key destinations across the island such as Galway, Limerick and Cork. In addition there are two Park Inn hotels. With this solid base, we plan to continue to deliver the levels of service, meeting facilities and accommodation that our guests have come to expect and to grow our market share. Where does Park Inn’s offering sit compared to other hotels? Park Inn is a fresh and energetic mid-market hotel brand that focuses on mastering the essentials to deliver a great hotel experience within its class. Easy to use and hassle-free, Park Inn hotels represent great value and affordable hospitality. What is the group’s unique selling point? The Rezidor Hotel Group in Ireland operates two different hotel brands, namely Radisson Blu Hotels and the Park Inn Hotels. Each of these brands has their own individual USP’s. Our Radisson Blu Hotels are unique and innovative in both design and product offering, catering for accommodation, dining experiences, conferences, weddings, leisure breaks, family events, spa treatments, fitness and leisure programmes, to name but a few. What sets us apart from the rest? Our “Yes I Can” philosophy, and our unique service concepts. These concepts include our One Touch Service, 100% Guest Satisfaction Guarantee, Super Breakfast, Grab and Run, it’s GoldPoints Plus Loyalty Programme incorporating 40 frequent flyer programme partners. Rezidor operates two Park Inn hotels in Ireland, in Belfast and at Shannon Airport. The brand offers efficient, uncomplicated and hassle-free stays. Rezidor has the unique advantage of having over 390 sister hotels (open or under development) in Europe, Middle East and Africa, all of whom are focused on delivering our brand promises and thus strengthening our ability and strategic advantage in attracting overseas visitors into our hotels when they stay in Ireland. Are the Radisson Blu and Park Inn properties well placed to weather an extended period of economic downturn? In 2009, as part of our ongoing business strategy, we focused our attentions primarily on two areas of the business, namely sales and costs. This focus in 2009 has given us a very solid platform from which to operate our hotels in 2010. Our concentration for the year 2010 and beyond is now firmly fixed on driving sales, both maintaining our existing customers and gaining new business from those who have become disenchanted with our competitors. What is your outlook on the UK/Irish hotel market in the next few years? I wish that I had a crystal ball… The number of factors which impact on the success of our hotel industry have been well documented. I think that to generalise on how the market will perform in the next couple of years would be to ignore the specific market conditions prevalent in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Each market faces its own challenges. However, I feel confident that the future for our hotels is more certain because of the way we operate our business. This is due to our focus on service and standards, and our ability to change to capture new opportunities in an ever changing environment. In terms of tourism, can governments in the Republic and Northern Ireland do more to facilitate and attract more visitors? I feel that anyone in the tourism industry at present would automatically say that “of course they can do more” – and I would agree with this. However, one must also acknowledge the efforts and initiatives that both governments and tourism boards have already undertaken, and give our support to these, whilst still maintaining the pressure to change and do even more. I am concerned that the question of accessibility into Ireland as an island may not remain a top priority. Our governments, regardless of whether north or south, should be prioritising this as both a short and long term objective. While there is currently a lot of focus on our overseas markets, we must be careful not to ignore or be complacent about the importance of domestic tourism for our long term viability. The future is in our hands. It is up to us to nurture and develop our business rather than just babysit.

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