This week we chat to Carol Douglas and Dirk Lob who came all the way from Berlin to visit our offices.
Can you give me some background information about you and Toga Hotels?
Carol: I’ve been working for Toga Hotels (the parent company) for 14 years; I started in sales but operations is my passion, so I soon moved to operations in various brands of Toga Hotels and various different positions. I was running a large portfolio of hotels in Australia and New Zealand when Europe came up and my hand was quickly raised. I have been fortunate enough to be based in Berlin for the past 4 years and I’ve opened 5 hotels, so it’s been fantastic and I love it.
Dirk: I started with Toga nearly four years ago. I started as General Manager for Adina Frankfurt, then I was transferred to Berlin to run our hotel there for 3 years. Now I am Regional Director of Sales for Europe; I look after the sales side of things for European companies and our European hotels.
How do you see the serviced apartment industry differ from Australia to Europe?
Carol: It differs quiet a lot. In Australia everybody knows what a serviced apartment is, it is widely recognised, especially the Adina brand, and we are a big fish in a little pond. Here, the serviced apartment or apartment hotel concept is a difficult one for people to understand because they are not sure what they are. The good thing that perhaps comes out of this is that people might not be sure of what they’ll get but when they turn up they’re like, “wow, this is fantastic”. Getting that brand out there is the difficulty. The only thing you can do is ensure people experience the product and see how damn good it is.
What do you think needs to be done in Europe to generate increased awareness about the serviced apartment industry?
Carol: There is no simple, overnight solution. The fastest way at the moment is definitely social media. It’s huge! If we take Berlin for instance, there are 670 hotels in Berlin; 2 of the Adinas are in the top 5 and 1 is number 12 so we get that apartment concept out there to the masses online on a regular basis so people are looking now at what the product is. There is still a little confusion: does it offer 24 hour service, is there a restaurant… We’re trying to offer everything a hotel would with the space provided by an apartment.
Why do you think more and more hotels are now interested in offering serviced apartments? Does it reflect the rising popularity of the industry?
Carol: It’s all about layering the business to be honest. When you have a long-term business base it’s great business to have, it’s like gold. And operationally it’s easier by far. Also because our hotels are not big, we get to know the guests well and they get to know us as well.
What makes the Adina brand so unique from others?
Dirk: I think it’s the service we offer, the friendliness and openness of the team. We look for team members who aren’t just professional in their respective fields, but have got a personality and that’s what really sets us apart from other hotels.
Carol: The design is different too, we are very design-focused and it’s not edgy design where people would feel cold; it’s the kind of design with warm colours that provides a warm welcome. It’s very liveable so people can feel comfortable and at home.
What do you want from an agent like SilverDoor?
We want a good business relationship; that’s one thing we are forging ahead with right now. Just having our presence here and having a focus with you and on you, that’s the first step. In the future we want to build on that relationship and have no barriers, so you can pick up the phone and know you can contact me or the hotel anytime. It’s flexibility on our part too, to provide you with the service that makes it easy for you to service your clients. I think that’s important.