CUSTOMER IS KING

Turkey 2020 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

Swissôtel's multinational team focused on improving guest experience ensures no stone is left unturned when fulfilling guests' personal preferences.

Uğur Talayhan
BIOGRAPHY

Uğur Talayhan has been the Regional Vice President of Accor Luxe brands in Turkey currently operating Raffles, Fairmont, Swissôtel, M Gallery, and Pullman and the General Manager of Swissôtel The Bosphorus since 2017. He has over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry and was previously managing director and general manager of Starwood/Marriott and Raffles hotels in China, the Middle East, and Europe. Talayhan graduated from Westminster Kingsway College.

Could you give us a brief history of Swissôtel The Bosphorus?

Swissôtel is one of Turkey's first five-star luxury hotels. Our location, formerly the garden of Dolmabahçe Palace, makes us even more unique. The original owners of the hotel were Japanese, and since then we have undergone many changes. Our name, however, has remained the same throughout, and this consistency has made us a renowned Turkish institution. 70-80% of people working in leading institutions within the local hospitality industry built their careers, in part, at Swissôtel. We have been essential in training the very best talent for Turkey's hospitality industry, and we are still a market leader across every segment we operate in.

Which regions or countries are you focusing on?
At present, Swissôtel is concentrating a great deal on Asia. Russia is a key focal point, as is South America. All hotels in Istanbul want to expand the diversity of their client base, as relying only on one demography carries too much risk. Many hotels suffer because of over-reliance on a single segment or demography, and we want to avoid this mistake. I am personally focused on Asia; specifically, I am keen to bring Chinese tourists to Turkey. Additionally, AccorHotels—our management company—has a great presence in the Americas, which gives that market a certain appeal. Russian business travelers also represent an interesting market. My goal with respect to the Russian market is to maintain the momentum that we have already built. Our broader strategy is to diversify as much as possible. In Antalya, in the south of Turkey, the industry has seen the negative effects of investing too much in a single market. The advantage of Istanbul is that the city appeals to people from around the world. Saudis are still the number-one visitor group from the Middle East, but we are seeing growth from Qatar and Kuwait, as well as Iran.

What percentages of your clients are leisure and business travelers?
Leisure comprises nearly 80% of our business. Business travel, on the other hand, is presently trending downward, but we are looking forward to promoting it, particularly among US and European visitors. Istanbul's luxury cruise sector has been declining over the past two years but is showing signs of reversal of late.

What is your strategy for capturing the business segment?
We pride ourselves on being able to offer the best experience that business travelers can receive. The value they get from us is unparalleled. As a destination, Istanbul itself is amazing, enriched by thousands of years of history. I recently attended a panel with German travel agencies, and they are interested in bringing customers back to Istanbul. In recent seasons, German travelers have sampled alternative destinations like Spain, Portugal, and Greece and have consistently found that the value they receive in Turkey is far superior.

What efforts or investments has Swissôtel made to improve guest experience?
Swissôtel Istanbul has a separate multinational team focused on improving guest experience. The company utilizes a strong set of tools to track and fulfill a guest's personal preferences. The goal is to create an excellent experience for visitors of all backgrounds and build an emotional connection with them. This is why Swissôtel Istanbul has the highest guest satisfaction rating as well as the highest employee satisfaction level out of all of our global locations.

What are your biggest goals and plans for 2019?
Our number-one goal is to focus on guest experience. Maximizing that will increase our average daily rate. Guests reflect on their experience and pay accordingly. Additionally, we want to expand our reputation in Asia and South America. We are working very hard on this and believe we are on the right track. We want to be able to offer experiences that justify higher rates.