Natalya Obydennova: «We will not have a second opportunity to make the first impression»

The Russian Association of Business Travel announces its new member: Moscow «Okhotnik» hotel which is situated in Golovinsky highway one minute’s walk from Vodny Stadion metro station has been certified as a business and conference hotel.

The main business travellers’ needs were taken into account during the hotel reconstruction in 2007. There are lots of business travellers among the hotel’s customers, as it is situated not far from Sheremetyevo airport and Crocus Expo exhibition centre.

The decisive criterion when choosing accommodation for the staff during a business trip includes not only technical features, but also excellent service, according to «Okhotnik» general director Natalya Obydennova. By the way, the service level of the hotel did not give rise to any criticism on the part of the Association during the certification procedure.

— Natalya, why did you decide to participate in ABT’s Business and Conference Hotel Certification procedure?

— We learned about the Russian Association of Business Travel at one of the exhibitions. We started finding out what the benefits of cooperation with the Association were. In other words, we conducted marketing analysis. It became clear that the Association was developing rapidly, was present in all professional editions, it is spoken much about.

It was then that we decided to confirm our hotel’s focus on business travellers and to pass ABT’s Business and Conference Hotel Attestation program. They are in fact our main client group. Besides, as far as I know, ABT is the only organization that unites business hotels. And everything is much easier when it is done together!

— You said that business travellers were the hotel’s main clients. What is their share in relation to individual travellers?

— If we take this year, their share amounts to 40-50%. But again, we are speaking about corporate clients and corporate agreements. The other 50% accounts for direct sales, i.e. individual bookings. And we can hardly judge about the travel purposes of these clients because not all of them fill in the questionnaire.

— What can you say about the attestation procedure itself? Was it easy?

— Before I answer this question I would like to say that we trace hotel reviews on various sites every day. And it is by the way one of the main ways to improve our service. We discuss every review and if we are able to improve something — we do it and write a reply to the guest’s review.

During the attestation procedure our hotel settled a series of technical problems, which has made staying in our hotel more comfortable. In particular, we have made additional lights near working desks in every room, an additional working place for guests who use internet in the lobby but do not have their PC with them. These are unscheduled expenses, indeed, but it was necessary to do all this.

As for the service level, we receive a very small number of critical remarks and solve everything very quickly.

In my opinion every hotel staff member is responsible for hotel service. Our main requirement to the staff that we announce at the interview, apart from the knowledge of the English language, is love for people. The rest can be acquired. If a person is open-hearted and responsive, he or she will not leave the guest’s request unsatisfied.

It is also important to establish feedback. Unfortunately, information about the things that guests are not satisfied with or the things the employees themselves would like to change is not always conveyed to the director. And I sometimes have no idea about minor items that cause discomfort.

The situation with ATMs may serve as an example. «Okhotnik» accommodates a lot of foreign guests who need to change their currency for roubles. And there is no round-the-clock currency exchange nearby. And I did not learn about it at once. But as soon as I learned about it, the problem was solved.

We regularly hold meetings in the hotel where the main question is what we can surprise our clients with and how we can attract new customers. The main way of solving this task is to be in the traveller’s shoes.

— What are the conference facilities of your hotel?

— There is a conference hall for 25 persons with all the necessary equipment in the hotel’s business centre. You can also use the presidential suite for business talks, there are 12-14 seats there. Our conference facilities are not great, indeed, but it can be explained by the small floor space of the hotel itself.

— What are the marketing advantages of a «business hotel» status in your opinion?

— In my opinion, the main advantage of this status is image promotion. If the Association is focused on rapid growth, then the hotels that play the role of its suppliers will develop also. It is no secret that the hotel industry is not very profitable: its economic efficiency indices are about 20-30%. Thus, we cannot include huge advertising costs into our budget.

Nowadays internet promotion is very popular. And the Association is widely presented in the internet, which allows us to hope for long-term cooperation with international companies.

— What do you have to take into consideration when working with corporate buyers?

— First of all, we try to allocate one manager for all aspects of talks with a corporate client. This is a way to avoid the «broken telephone» effect, and the customer saves his time.

Nowadays there are lots of offers on the part of corporate travel agencies, so hotels can choose who to work with. But the hotel market in Moscow is competitive as well: new hotels are opened every year and they offer various services. In this respect «Okhotnik» may succeed only due to its excellent service.

Of course, we always give ear to requirements of our corporate guests and try to understand what else we can do for our customers. In other words, we are always open to meaningful dialogue and new ideas!

Marina Osipova