The management behind the new Radisson Hotel in BudaPart interviewed 300 candidates to find a “World Championship” team. General manager Carien Veldman takes the Budapest Business Journal through the uniquely exciting experience of opening a new hotel.
BBJ: Why was BudaPart chosen as the location of the newly opening/opened Radisson Hotel Budapest BudaPart?
Carien Veldman: The award-winning BudaPart district was the ideal location for a Radisson hotel, where Radisson enables guests to find harmony in their hotel experience – with relaxing natural spaces, thoughtfully considered details, and unexpected delights. Cosy and natural spaces are very important for our brand, and in the hotel, you can see this in the many wooden details throughout the hotel as well as the large plants that are incorporated into the interior design. This is complemented by Kopaszi-gát close by, which offers a relaxing space to go for a run outdoors or just enjoy the view. We are close to a very modern constantly developing business district, with top international companies, and now we offer them a great place to stay and plan their events.
BBJ: What occupancy do you expect for Q4 2023 and Q1 2024?
CV: We opened in the middle of August, with the main goal to accommodate groups relating to the World Athletics Championship, and business during this period has exceeded our expectations for travelers all around the world. For the month of August 80% of guests that stayed with us came specifically for this event and chose our hotel due to the excellent location. Big international events like these are an excellent opportunity to showcase our area and of course our hotel.
BBJ: What is a hotel opening like from a professional point of view? Was there a unique concept tailor-made for this market?
CV: Works started in 2021 and I joined the project in late 2022, to start the planning for the operational part of the hotel. It is exciting to purchase everything that goes into the hotel, everything from mattresses and pillows to conference tables down to the last teaspoon has to be selected, ordered and installed in the correct area of the hotel. Think of it as really large house with 198 bedrooms and an amazing kitchen! The equipment list had over 1,300 different items.
The kitchen was designed specifically for our Asian restaurant - the Shanghai Kitchen concept, with plenty of space for woks and steamers alongside the traditional kitchen equipment.
Our biggest milestone was when the department heads joined the project and finally started recruiting their teams. We interviewed more than 300 candidates to select our core opening team.
We are proud to have the Rooftop Bar & Terrace with its open-air terrace and panoramic views of the BudaPart neighborhood since we know that Budapesters love their rooftop bars! This outlet was designed specifically for the BudaPart location. When we show new clients around it is one of the first things that they would like to see, and they immediately start planning events there.
BBJ: How do you see guest expectations, what do they want from a hotel?
CV: We can clearly see that guest expectations changed after the pandemic, but the essence of what guests want stayed the same. Above all, they want comfort - a super comfortable bed, an excellent shower, and a hearty breakfast with both healthy and indulgent options. But the most important is always service and genuine hospitality from our team members.
Changes in the way that people watch TV affected hotels as well, with the popularity of streaming services causing us to rethink the entertainment that we offer in the rooms. For example, we installed a screen mirroring device in every room, so that guests can stream their preferred content from their phones or laptops. In terms of booking patterns, we can see that guests now book with shorter lead times, and require lots of flexibility to change the dates of their stay or cancel with short notice. Historically, groups and events were booked months in advance, but it is now not unusual to see a request for an event or group only a week or two before arrival.
BBJ: Why Shanghai Kitchen?
CV: As the hotel is in the BudaPart and Kopaszi-gát area where there are already a number of dining options within walking distance, we wanted to offer something interesting and appealing to local residents as well as hotel guests. We did not want to be just another hotel restaurant offering the standard hotel fare, Shanghai Kitchen does very elegant cuisine inspired by the flavors of Shanghai - even though we still do a killer filet mignon for those that prefer something more traditional. The concept also lends itself beautifully to vegetarian and vegan dishes, catering to many different dietary requirements.
BBJ: Carien, with you coming from South Africa, how would you compare your experiences with the new Budapest hotel opening?
CV: I have experienced working in opening hotels in three different countries - Africa and Europe - before coming to Hungary, and the most important thing I have learned is that every opening is unique.
But at the end of the day what can make or break an opening is the team that you have around you, and I have had the fortune of working with some very professional and engaged people on this project. The quality of construction in Hungary is high and our requirements in terms of technology and smart building management have been very well implemented. Hospitality culture in every country is very different, and what I love most about Hungary is that people are quick to greet each other and treat travelers with respect and courtesy.