TBY talks to Frank Reichenbach, General Manager and Regional Manager for Turkey, Mövenpick, on the hotel’s success, business in 2011, and the potential for MICE tourism.
TBY Mövenpick Hotel Istanbul was selected as the world’s leading city hotel by the World Travel Awards. What makes this hotel exceptional?
FRANK REICHENBACH There’s a personal touch to our service. We want to recognize our customers, get to know their likes and dislikes, and focus on the details. We listen to our customers and try and make their stay special. That means we need to have very good staff who are willing to take the extra step and go the extra mile. We’re not reinventing the wheel—we just focus on good service. We mix Turkish hospitality with Swiss service quality. The good thing about Turkey is that people enjoy serving, they like welcoming people and making them feel looked after. The Swiss side is reliability. We deliver what we promise; we get back to our customers as soon as possible.
How does 2011 compare to 2010 in terms of arrivals and occupancy?
We’re about 20-25% above 2010, which is huge. It’s difficult to explain the reason for this increase, since there are no big events in 2011 compared to 2010, when Istanbul was the European Capital of Culture. But there’s stability in the economy and also good investments in the industry, and so those probably had an effect.
What do you think about Istanbul’s potential to become a major MICE tourism destination?
I think Turkey has everything to compete on the world stage in MICE tourism. Istanbul has top convention center facilities, and every year they get better. But Istanbul also has something else that’s difficult to explain, Istanbul is possibly one of the most vibrant and inspiring cities in the world, where you can discover not only a dynamic cultural synthesis, but also some of the best shopping, dining, and nightlife anywhere. An effort was made to position Ankara and Izmir as major MICE destinations, but Istanbul really stands out as a magnet. Istanbul is not Turkey, it’s unique. The infrastructure is also developing, even though it’s still challenging. Geographically it is ideal for Europe, being only 3-4 hours from all the major cities. Turkish Airlines flies everywhere, with a great new fleet, great reach, lots of publicity, and membership in the Star Alliance. Those factors combined make accessibility a huge advantage.
What is your capability to host business meetings and conferences here at Mövenpick?
We have 250 rooms. We have a main ballroom that seats up to 400, and we have a smaller ballroom that seats up to 100, as well as 12 meeting rooms. We hosted the Google Europe meeting, as well as events by Nestlé and Bose, to name just a few. This size is perfect for us because it allows us to host significant events, but is not so big that we lose the ability to provide a personal touch to our guests.
Having managed a number of hotels in Asia, how would you compare the hospitality industry there to Turkey?
It’s a bit similar to places like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Jakarta, especially in terms of its innate tradition of service and hospitality. But it’s different, too. It has things that are European, things that are Asian, but then also something that is unique. I was in the Middle East for a while, in Bahrain and Beirut, but Istanbul is different. It has the same size, the same attitude, the same kind of service culture, and some religious similarities too, but Istanbul is very open. People still have the wrong idea about Istanbul and Turkey, it’s often not what people expect. They expect less and get a lot more.
The government is targeting 50 million arrivals by the year 2023. What do you think the public and private sector need to do to achieve that goal?
I think Turkey is very reachable and very accessible, and I don’t think that is an unrealistic goal. Turkey is a very safe place. That is a crucial factor. There is a diversity of attractions across Turkey that appeal to a broad range of people. Also, Istanbul still has room to expand in terms of hotels. Prices have risen and will continue to rise, which is natural considering the quality of service offered here.
What are your most important markets, in Istanbul as well in the other Mövenpick hotels in Ankara and Izmir?
In Istanbul it’s the UK and Germany, and tourists from those countries represent almost half of all our business. Europe represents 60% overall, along with some Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Indian guests. About 40% is local. Izmir is mostly local and corporate, although there are some more leisure groups in summer, including Japanese and other Asian tour groups. Ankara is purely business and government guests, mostly domestic, and no leisure.
Any plans for expansion?
We’d like to have another hotel on the European side and one on the Asian side in Istanbul. We’re also looking at Antalya, Kayseri, Adana, and Gaziantep. The challenge with those cities is that you will not get an average rate of €80. But we are an upscale hotel management company, so we don’t want to go below an €80 room rate. That’s the challenge.
What’s your vision for tourism in Turkey?
It has a great future. It has the seas, the size, the diversity, the wealth, and the right attitude. It’s geographically very well situated. It appeals to Europeans and people from the Middle East. It has a strong and developing infrastructure. It seems to be politically stable now. It’s safe. You can fly here from almost anywhere. Turkish Airlines has a great reputation. The future is very bright indeed, and the economy is developing very rapidly.
© The Business Year