Alexander Zverev, Hampton by Hilton Volgograd: «Hilton has taught us to predict clients` wishes»

In October 2013 global hotel operator Hilton World announced the opening of its sixth hotel in Russia, Hampton by Hilton Volgograd Profsoyuznaya.

Volgograd has attracted a lot of business travellers lately, so the emergence of the world famous hotel operator here was not only an anticipated, but also a milestone event. It is the growth of the hotel industry that can give further momentum to the city’s development, making it the centre of business activity of the region.

Despite the fact that the hotel started accommodating guests not long ago, it has already officially confirmed its business and conference hotel status, having received the certificate of the Russian Association of Business Travel.

We have talked about hospitality traditions and the unique «Hamptonality» principle with Alexander Zverev, hotel development director of Stoliya company, the developer of Hampton by Hilton Volgograd Profsoyuznaya.

— Alexander, there are two non-chain hotels in Volgograd in your company’s portfolio already — Yuzhniy and Start. Why did you take the decision to work with a global hotel operator this time?

— Construction of a hotel under an international brand is a great impetus to self-development. We have learned a lot of new things and have had an opportunity to implement part of solutions in other hotels run by Stoliya. Nowadays only 1% of Russian hotels belong to international hotel chains and more than a half of them are in Moscow. And it is not surprising, because one of the main conditions for concluding an agreement with an international operator is the purchase of franchise, which Russian investors prefer to avoid. But you have to understand that the transfer of service standards and complete documentation, which the global chain has been working on for years, can not be free of charge.

I think that Russian hotels will have to gradually take over western experience during the next several years in order to excel them in the course of time. It has not happened yet.

— What were you guided by when you chose the Hilton brand?

— The Hilton brand initially attracted us by its democratism, attitude to guests, high service standards. These are, first of all, age-old hospitality traditions: Russian hoteliers can only dream of the scrupulosity every detail is treated with in this company!

We all have travelled at least once and know that there are lots of nuances in every trip that may cause discomfort. Hilton has taught us to foresee client’s requests: guests can solve any problem without leaving the hotel. And our slogan is: «Surpassing expectations».

— What requirements of the global brand were the most difficult to fulfill?

— I think that the most difficult thing was to establish business contacts with suppliers that were authorized by the Hilton chain. They usually work abroad, which affects delivery terms and logistics significantly. But we do not regret having started working with these companies: we can guarantee a good high quality bed, natural food for breakfast and a lobby equipped up to the state of the art.

— Hampton by Hilton Volgograd Profsoyuznaya was built by reconstructing the building of the former Volgograd medical equipment plant purchased by Stoliya. How many years did the reconstruction take? What facilities does the hotel offer today?

— It took us a year to build the hotel and to put it into operation. We laid the foundation stone together with the governor of the Volgograd Region in November 2012, and we greeted the first guests on October 28th, 2013.

We did not spare expenses for infrastructure! The hotel offers a multi-functional conference centre, Volga Hall, a free parking for 80 cars, a fitness centre for all guests, free Wi-Fi; you can also use a business centre with remote printing services, and it is far from all!

The development of technologies and know-how, first of all, forces us to meet all modern trends in conference hall equipment. Guests often refuse to hold events in other hotels, because equipment does not meet their requirements. A situation like that is impossible in our hotel: Volga Hall offers the most advanced equipment.

The conference hall is ideally suitable for banquets as well as for business events. Clients can choose whether they order services separately or use one of our complex offers. The overall capacity of the hall is 350 persons, but it may be divided into three separate rooms for 80 persons each, if necessary. Thus a guest may rent one room for 3000 roubles per hour or the whole hall for 8000 roubles per hour only. A congress system is available in the hall, there is professional light and sound equipment, online broadcasting is also possible. And of course, every client has its personal manager.

I would like to note that the hotel differs from its competitors due to its almost ideal price-quality-equipment ratio. We offer our guests not only modern rooms, but also a wide range of extra services for a reasonable price.

— What does the famous Hamptonality principle of Hampton by Hilton mean for you personally?

— As for me, Hamptonality is a special understanding of the role of each employee in the life of a hotel. Room maids, administrators, barmen are not staff positions, but parts of the hotel’s living mechanism. When guests get into this environment they can feel the atmosphere of kindness, understanding and cooperation.

— According to the Hampton brand philosophy, if a guest is not satisfied with service, he will be reimbursed his living costs. Is this rule valid for your hotel? Are you not afraid that the specific Russian mentality can force guests to take advantage of it?

— We followed the principle «The customer is always right» even before the construction of the new Hilton hotel. Now we try to solve any problem and to leave only a positive impression. The brand’s philosophy does not foresee conflicts with clients: if the customer is not satisfied, we have missed something and must put it right as quickly as possible. We have been working for two months and have not had any abusive practices so far.

— Are business hotels in demand in Volgograd?

— Our city’s guests are first of all business travellers, who visit Volgograd during their business trips. We have had a lot of international exhibitions and forums recently. We have accommodated more than 10 large groups this year — war veterans, world famous scientists, representatives of various professions. They all prefer hotels with good service and a reasonable price. Busy months are traditionally April — May and September — November, these are the months of peak business activity. In January, July and August we experience a decrease in occupancy, which is caused by unfavorable weather conditions as well as by the holiday season.

The share of tourists who come to Volgograd for leisure is extremely small and causes hoteliers` concern. In my opinion, the development of tourist facilities can further promote Volgograd as a leisure destination.

An average hotel occupancy rate in the city is about 40%. But as you may know, construction of another 16 hotels has been announced to prepare for the World Football Championship. I suppose, if these plans are fulfilled, part of hotels will be empty.

— Do you think hoteliers’ approach to business travellers and to individual tourists should differ?

— No doubt, a combination of various factors is important for travellers — the hotel’s location, a comfortable stay, colleagues’ recommendations. Price policy is also very important. Hoteliers who accommodate business travellers and tourist groups should understand that independent of their category, guests need good service. We have different price policies, but not the service levels, of course.

Every client is treated individually. If corporate buyers wish to cooperate with us, we are glad to conclude bilateral agreements. Their benefit may amount to 20%. Besides, independent of discounts or special rates, our guests are offered a wide range of extra services: a free fitness centre, tea and coffee sets, Internet access, an ergonomic working zone, a free business centre with remote printing services, free hot breakfast. In order to become our partner you only have to visit Volgograd more often.

— Why did you decide to undergo the attestation procedure of the Russian Association of Business Travel?

— We understand that the status of a business and conference hotel is first of all necessary for guests who plan their events. It gives them the understanding of the hotel’s facilities, its experience in accommodating large business groups. Besides, after the hotel’s inspection by the global brand completing the attestation procedure was not a very hard task, so we decided to complete the attestation at the stage of hotel opening.

— There are only a few days left till the New Year. What can you wish our readers in the coming year?

— Our guests have been enjoying the New Year atmosphere for a month already: the whole hotel has been decorated, there is a decorated fir tree in the yard. I would like to wish all readers of the Newsletter of the Russian Association of Business Travel more happy moments, welcoming smiles and ... a little luck!