Radisson Blu Sofia General Manager George Miu: Bulgarians, Romanians Must Hold Hands to Achieve Their European Goals
An interview with Georgi Miu, the new General Manager of the Radisson Blu Sofia Grand Hotel, who took over in April 2012.
You have recently taken over the Radisson in Sofia. What is your prior experience in hotel management?
I've worked as a hotelier for the past 20 years with major players in the hotel industry such as Sofitel, Hilton & JW Marriott. During the years I have had several task force assignments abroad – in Rome, Barcelona London, Monaco.
My last 5 years have been with The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bucharest as Director of Operations. This is my professional history in a nutshell.
You've been in Bulgaria for a month and a half. How do you feel in Bulgaria and in Sofia in particular?
Very well and like home, as I just had to cross the Danube (I am Romanian). It's not my first time in Bulgaria. As any Romanian might tell you, we have a lot of holidays on the Black Sea in Bulgaria.
I visited the Bulgarian Black Sea coast last year, which I found to be very nice. Also, I was in Sofia last year on a task force assignment as the interim hotel manager for our sister hotel, the Park Inn by Radisson. So I was not a total stranger to Sofia when I arrived.
I find Sofia to be a very nice city in a wonderful setting (surrounded by mountains). I enjoy Sofia very much.
How do the markets in Sofia and in Bucharest compare, based on your experience?
From both a competition & market point of view, they are similar, with just a small remark that Sofia market is a bit smaller but with great chances of growing in the near future.
What's in for the five-star hotels in the present post-crisis environment?
It is a struggle because everybody is price sensitive. The difference between four-star and five-star has faded away. You ask me if it is a post-crisis environment.
Nobody can tell if the crisis is over or it is going to come back but I can safely say that, yes, from my experience in Bucharest, and I am seeing it a little bit in Sofia – there is a slight grow compared with last year. So this might put us onto an optimistic trend. Yes, we do feel a certain uncertainty.
People are uncertain what will happen with the euro zone, this is a worry for all of us. I believe that the first sign of recovery is travel, and we are the first to feel it. I am an optimistic person and I want to believe we will be getting out soon of this crisis.
What would you say are the competitive advantages of the Radisson in Sofia vis-a-vis the other five-star hotels?
I strongly believe that one of our main competitive advantages is our staff and the service that we provide. I talk regularly to clients and guests, and we ask them constantly about feedback, and everybody has been sharing this with us.
There are the services that set us apart from the others. We have our 100% satisfaction guarantee.
We have our Super Breakfast. I believe we have the best breakfast in town, and this is the most important meal in a hotel.
Other specific service concepts that differentiate us are free Wi-Fi in the entire hotel, as well as in all areas for non-resident guests. Then there are our meeting and event premises, and many more.
Second, we cannot omit the location. We have a wonderful location, and, what is more, we have a history behind it. This hotel has been a landmark of Sofia, since 1969. This is the place to be in Sofia.
Last but not least, there are our company brand standards and values. As of this year, we Rezidor and Carslon have joined hands as Carlson Rezidor. So, as we like to say, one plus one equals three – bringing a positive synergy.
Do you have specific strategies to target certain markets?
Going through this difficult period, the worst thing you can do is to wait for something to happen. You have to go for various markets and clients.
Corporate is the first one to react, people are a bit reluctant, and like to wait and see what will happen, so you can experience a stagnation. The best approach in this situation is to focus on what really matters, know the market and demand patterns, which gives you opportunity to attract new accounts but most of all know your customers.
As long as you provide the facilities and services they need and meet their requirements, you will be successful. The other thing that is really important with the corporate segment is the mutual trust – they should be able to rely that they will receive the contracted services and facilities and fair price based on your value and your competitive advantages compared to the competition. It does not have to be lower but you have to provide value for money when corporate travel budgets are tight.
One strategy would be to look at leisure activities. Everybody says that Sofia is a business destination but I think there is also a strong potential for leisure. And I am not only saying this about Sofia, I was also saying this about Bucharest.
We have a history behind us. I've walked around in Sofia, and I've seen some beautiful places. When you see a monument from the 5th century AD, this is heritage. You see that people are slowly coming to discover it.
Do you see a potential in the local, Bulgarian market?
Why not? People always travel to the capital for shopping, this could be a target: a city break in Sofia – for Bulgarians. You can attract locals as well - not only for the hotel but also for our outlets and meeting premises.
Do you have any particular goals for the Radisson with respect to the social life in Sofia?
With regard to the social life I wish to capitalize on the heritage of this hotel. I want our restaurant and terrace to be the main speaking topic of this city. Hopefully, the weather will be nice because we have some great plans for our patio.
We now have the UEFA Euro 2012, then we have the London Olympics. We want to be the main attraction for Sofia.
What are the goals you've set for yourself? What do you want the Radisson Sofia to achieve under your leadership?
I want to be the No.1 hotel not only in Sofia and Bulgaria but also – that's a personal goal of mine – I would like the Radisson Sofia to be the best hotel in our chain – as a midterm goal.
What do you need for that to happen?
I believe there are at least 3 pillars that you need to touch upon. First is guest satisfaction. We believe we are doing a great job but we cannot rest as we have to keep it alive.
Second is profitability, we have to assure good return to our shareholders.
Third, as we are in the people serving people industry, the foundation to all of them is having great employees. I feel lucky to have found an excellent team over here, which gives us the foundation for really great results in the future.
Do you think that the newest EU members – Bulgaria and Romania – are already being accepted as comparable to Western European nations and locations?
I believe that a lot of misconceptions of the Western world regarding Romania and Bulgaria stem from the fact that we didn't know how to make good PR for ourselves.
As I've been in the hotel industry for 20 years, I've seen people travel a little bit scared to this part of the world about what they are going to find over here.
But I was always pleasantly surprised that whoever came over here, would discover a different reality, and people fall in love with this part of the world. So, yes, I believe that we are almost there. We might even have some strategic edges compared to the West.
Look at the work force – attractive from both a fiscal point and knowledge (well educated and speaking foreign languages). I truly believe that Romania and Bulgaria must hold hands towards their European goals. We have so many things in common that we really need to work together.
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