Interview with Janka Slamova and Lenka Žilava from Park Inn by Radisson Danube Bratislava

Park Inn by Radisson Danube Bratislava

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Kongres Magazine talked to Janka Slamova, Meetings and Event Coordinator and Lenka Žilava, Director of Sales and Marketing in Park Inn by Radisson Danube Bratislava on how they adapted to the “new normal” in Bratislava and why event organisers should choose Slovakia’s capital when they organise their next event.

“BRATISLAVA FEATURES A LOT OF POSSIBILITIES FOR SUCH A SMALL TOWN”

Q: Radisson Hotels were among the first to launch their own Safety Protocol and flexible booking and cancellation policy for groups and events. How important is that for the restart of the MICE business?

Janka: Just to make it more understandable, RHG imposes two safety protocols. The first stands for general safety and protective measures including pictograms, so it is easy to explain it for hotel guests. The second one is dedicated to the meetings and events, so participants can feel protected.

Regarding flexible cancellation, we were really among the first ones to launch this, and it really helped us to save many group bookings and gain new business. Additionally, our partners feel safe to confirm business during these unpredictable times.

Q: How did Park Inn by Radisson Danube Bratislava adapt to the new health & safety restrictions? What was the most difficult part?

Lenka: We have to say that we have implemented the new safety measures very operatively, and we have been among the first hotels in Bratislava to have implemented all the safety sticker marks around the whole hotel, hygienic tools including sanitisers, gloves and protection masks. The hardest to get was the immediate deliveries of needed oxivir chemistry and ozoners for rooms. Another crucial part was to immediately train our staff and to clearly inform the guests what is expected and how they need to behave in this new environment.

We are still the only hotel in Bratislava with a disinfection entrance gate, through which you need to access the hotel, and it fully disinfects your clothes, suitcase and especially hands.

Q: When do you expect MICE business to come back, and which MICE segment will return first?

Janka: We expected that this whole pandemic will be much shorter, as no one could predict that even a year later, we will still have lockdown restrictions in place and just a few rooms occupied. It is a real disaster for all of our business, but we believe that the vaccination will help us to get back to a more “normal” period by the end of the year. We expect that the first could be healthcare events as the pharmaceutical branch requires doctors, who will be fully vaccinated first.

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Q: What are the main advantages of Park Inn by Radisson Danube Bratislava? What differs it from other hotels in Bratislava?

Lenka: Definitely the greatest advantage is the hotel’s location in the heart of the city centre, including the direct access to main sightseeings, connection roads, 50 m from the direct buses to Vienna airport, a tram stop just a few steps away and even the ships port with Twin City Liner to Vienna. Across the Park Inn through the bridge, you can find one of the largest parks in Europe, a huge shopping mall and office location. Moreover, we are proud to have a nice indoor pool overlooking Bratislava Castle, and an extensive gym with great equipment which is provided for every guest free of charge. Our capacity featuring 240 rooms, including 30 apartments with kitchens and the possibility of nearly all rooms to be set as twins, makes it attractive for larger venues as well.

Q: What are the best activities in Bratislava that should be a part of any incentive programme?

Lenka: Bratislava features a lot of possibilities for such a small town. From nice sightseeing tours with incentive programs possibilities, such as escape rooms, segways, speed boats and interactive outdoor games, wipe out arena, fort Boyard style area, Go-karts, including great shopping to the cultural attractiveness of our theatres and the recently reconstructed National Gallery. We believe that our natural surroundings with hiking possibilities and very interesting wine routes to the Small Carpathian region will become increasingly popular. Basically, all of these activities and programs await guests within a 15 km radius, so they are easy to be reached and arranged!

Q: Do you think that hybrid events are a suitable alternative before we can attend live events again? Are you ready to offer all the necessary technical support for digital events to clients?

Janka: Hybrid events have been fully implemented within our hotel starting this year. We have prepared and tested the virtual in-house studio in cooperation with our local partner agency. As per the restrictions, we still have only limited possibilities of max. 6 attendees per each meeting, but what works well.

Many agencies really took it to the next step by offering wine tasting, degustation and cooking programs. The virtual and hybrid world can be really creative. On the other hand, we still feel the need for real live events, and many clients can not wait to meet in person again.

“DESTINATIONS SHOULD STAY VISIBLE AND SHOULD BE PRESENTED AS SAFE PLACES TO VISIT. I BELIEVE THIS WILL BE CRUCIAL. BRATISLAVA HAS REAL POTENTIAL TO BECOME EVEN MORE PREFERRED THAN PRAGUE.”

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“ONLY THE BEST EMPLOYEES CAN DELIVER THE BEST EXPERIENCE AND SERVICES ACCORDINGLY”

Q: The Bratislava Convention Bureau has been very active in 2020. Do you think that more agile and innovative destinations will have an easier recovery?

Lenka: Destinations should stay visible and should be presented as safe places to visit. I believe this will be crucial. Bratislava has real potential to become even more preferred than Prague. If our Convention Bureau will take an active part in all possible online presentations and will use the right marketing tools, we have a great chance to get back on track as soon as possible.

Q: What is your view of the future? Which services and professional skills will be the most important for clients and guests after the crisis?

Janka: Due to the limited occupancies in hotels, guests started to feel a real personal touch. It will be very necessary to keep this personal attitude, professional and very flexible staff as honestly said, now each employee who stayed in the hotel is working on several jobs. On the other hand, this brings the team to a greater overview and interaction. We believe that this will help to keep good teamwork, which will be remarkable in our customer’s eyes. Only the best employees can deliver the best experience and the services accordingly.

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PERSONAL QUESTIONS FOR JANKA AND LENKA

Q: Which app was your best friend during the corona crisis?

Lenka: WhatsApp – as we were sending daily messages, pictures and all communication within the different groups we have. Daily socialization among us and our partners and friends is very necessary.

Janka: My phone said that it is WhatsApp, but I think that apps, where I can turn on my hoover or washing machine, are pretty busy too.

Q: What does a day in the life of a “meetings & event coordinator” look like, when hotels are closed?

Janka: I have to say that it is very different from the old days. Before the first wave, we were a team of 9 people with exact tasks, now there are only two of us and, of course, our colleague from the reception team, who is helping us. However, we have to fill all positions like reservations, corporate sales or marketing. So I am very happy that I can gain new skills, but I miss my busy day full of events. Of course, I am still on site when we have small virtual events, but it is not that often.

The biggest challenge for me now is to split my personal and work life as most of the time, the nursery is closed, and we have a home office with children. So, emails are waiting till evening, and when I am talking to clients on the phone, I can hear screaming children too. So it is a kind of funny ice breaker.

Q: What does a day in the life of a “director of Sales and Marketing” look like, when meetings and events are not allowed?

Lenka: Exactly regarding this topic, we were laughing recently – our standard day:

L: Hi Janka, did you see today’s pickup?
J: Yes, give me a second, just putting the laundry in the washing machine.
L: Oh, I hear my one just singing its song, just wait for a second (quickly finishing the breakfast for kids).
J: Are you serving food again?
L: Of course, these small hyenas just eat the whole day!
J: We should send the newsletter today (phone in one hand, while grabbing the lego pieces from the floor).
L: Definitely let’s speak on a morning call, it starts in 5 minutes…

This is our daily routine, we keep thinking as businesswomen but including new tasks, so if we thought that we were multitasking before, now it is a million tasking every day! To our benefit, I have to say that we both do good exercise at least three times per week!

Q: What do you desire the most at the moment?

Lenka: As I was quite happy with my life before, I just would like to stop this uncertain period and rewind it back, like I was in the movie Click.

Janka: Work-wise, I desire to come to the office in the morning, and the office is full. I have 55 unread emails, my phone is ringing, and coffee is waiting on my desk like it was before. Family-wise, health for everyone, of course, and a meet together as a part of my family is abroad, and we miss them.

Q: Where would you go if borders, hotels and restaurants all opened next week?

Lenka: To work, of course! As for us, the worst is that kids are at home, some kindergartens are open for a week, then closed back due to some positive cases. There is nothing more to be said than just the fact: they have only been in school for two and a half months during these two years…

Janka: It is true that when everything opens again, for us, it means lots of work, but besides that, I would love to just indulge in a simple coffee and cake and a nice chat.

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