Mr. Boyadzhiev, what are the trends in modern city hotels in Bulgaria and in the world, how do customers and hotel facilities change?
I can boldly say that in terms of modern urban hotels, Bulgaria is positioned in the high segment with regards to their material and technical condition. There is still room for improvement in the level of service, but it is a complex challenge, driven by the level of staff. The trend in urban hotels is to increase staff qualification and the goal - to improve service and align with the best international practices and levels. The hotel business in the country is increasingly looking for ways to introduce modern technologies to make search, booking and service processes more intuitive and comfortable. An example of such technologies are the introduction of smart applications, virtual reception and smart infrastructure in the rooms. Customers are now more informed, have easy access to a large amount of information, and have the opportunity to quickly receive reviews and to comment. And all this is easily visible through social networks and tourist platforms. This makes them not only active participants in the hotel services market, but also a major factor for its existence. Hoteliers on their part should have a topical online presence, actively seek feedback from customers and to take care at any moment for them to be satisfied.
What is the state of the current hotel market in the capital and how do you assess the trends?
The capital market has been extremely dynamic over the past two years, dominated by Bulgarian participants with regards both to property and management. Despite the limited share of international chains in the country, there is an interest shown by them for opening new hotels and for branding existing ones. This is due to the acceleration of urban tourism in Sofia. In addition to traditional business trips, the Bulgarian capital is gaining popularity as a desirable destination for foreigners for the weekend, the so called city breaks. Catalyst of this process is the expansion of low-cost airlines, which for the last two years have increased a lot their flights to and from Sofia. Moreover, according to the national statistics for May two thirds of foreign tourists in the country prefer luxury hotels. The hotels with four or five stars accounted for 79.7% of the total number of nights spent by foreigners in May.
I expect the development trend of the hotel industry to remain, which will make the business more profitable and will lead to more international participants entering it.
Can we recall the participation of Galaxy Investment Group in Bulgaria's hotel market, the deals, investments and development plans? What is your forecast for the development of the sector in the near and medium term? Is there a chance for new entrants such as Hyatt Regency to enter new deals?
Galaxy Investment Group Ltd. has many years of experience in attracting recognized world brands in the tourism sector. Our portfolio includes both Barcelo Royal Beach and Majestic Beach Resort as well as Hilton Sofia and Radisson Blu. Upon completion of the reconstruction and renovation of the last hotel, its management will be taken over by InterContinental, which will enter Bulgaria for the first time.
Our forecast is that the trend of positive development of the urban hotels sector in Sofia will be maintained. As I mentioned, this is due to both the improved business climate in the country and the opening of new destinations by airlines such as RyanAir and WizzAir. The presidency of Bulgaria in the EU next year will further promote Sofia as a top business and tourist destination. During this period Sofia will be visited by a large number of guests from the European institutions and their families, most of whom will be people who come to the country for the first time. If the steady trend of growth in employment and revenue is preserved, in the next few years there will be an opportunity for new entrants in the market of 4- and 5-star hotels in Sofia.
What are the main parameters of IHG Sofia and Hilton Sofia as indicators of the hotels? What is their business segment and target customer group?
In the hotel business, the most important measurable indicators are occupancy, average cost, and RevPAR (available room revenue). With regard to these indexes as owners, we can say that Radisson Blu and Hilton Sofia traditionally occupy the top positions in the urban hotels sector in Sofia. We manage to steadily achieve growth in all three indicators with each successive year. The target customer group of both hotels is similar: individual business guests, corporate customers, tour groups, long-stay guests in the destination, and more.
Can we specify the architectural, design and functional requirements of the IHG and Hilton chains?
International hotel chains have very clear requirements and a consistent approach to their implementation. First of all, ensuring the safety and security of our guests is integrated into every part of the projects they work on. The next highest importance is the high comfort of the visitors and the operative organization of the sites so that they are as functional as possible. As a final stage, everything listed is dressed in the most up-to-date trends in design and vision, looking ahead at least at the next 10 years.
Source: The City Magazine