Back in 1977, the Hilton Budapest became the first Hilton to open behind the Iron Curtain. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, general manager Zoltán Árvai talked to the Budapest Business Journal about the modernization of the hotel and the market in general.
How will the image of the hotel change following the renovation works launched back in 2014?
Hilton Budapest is reinventing itself, so the venue’s interior is undergoing a beautiful change, featuring fancy and exciting design, whilst the medieval heritage of the building is preserved. An absolute novelty is a brand-new entrance for groups arriving by bus who now can access the building in a much more comfortable manner and without the hassle of going through the protected Royal Castle area. While it is true enough that TripAdvisor users have voted us among the Top Ten Hotels with the most breath-taking view, reality tells us that alone will not be enough in today’s fiercely competitive environment.
What is your corporate strategy to prevail against the competition?
We constantly monitor the performance of our key competitors and our own stats are analyzed in great detail all the time. As a member of Hilton Hotels and Resorts, we get a lot of support from the global brand. The Hilton sales offices boosts bookings tremendously in our key markets such as the United States and the United Kingdom. The Hilton Honors loyalty program generates a lot of traffic as our repeat customers are used to our level of service and they are happy to capitalize on the numerous benefits attached to membership. The Honors app further adds to customer satisfaction, not to mention that our newly refurbished rooms are equipped with cutting-edge technology. Our unique location is strengthened by the newly renovated Royal Castle area. We are confident that we have a good product and we have always been well-known for particularly strong services.
Overall, guest nights grew by more than 6% in 2016. Is the upward trend as strong in the premium segment?
Our occupancy rates have been great and are continuously improving. FINA World Aquatics Championships this summer fuel demand for hotels in Budapest. The countryside, however, has not profited from this bigger influx of foreigners at all, and this is an issue that needs to be addressed. It is a pleasant trend that domestic tourism is on the rise, not least due to the widespread use of the recreational employee vouchers known as the Szép card. But guests from abroad will need to be given an incentive to widen their horizon and go beyond the boundaries of Budapest.
Where are Hilton Budapest and the industry headed?
Our goal is to make it back to the top three hotels in the city, and I believe we are on the right track to make that happen. We also pride ourselves on ranking seventh out of Hilton’s total of 150 hotels in the region, according to the brand’s overall guest satisfaction surveys, and we could climb even higher there. The industry would like to see a VAT cut for room rates, which would boost our regional competitiveness, give us some slack in terms of maintenance and CAPEX, and would allow us to pay higher wages.