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16:59    |    28/07/2012

Consistency is one of the most important factors that could make a difference at the moment

In life, as in business, it is important to create long term prerequisites and consistency is one of the most important factors that can make a difference, Sonia Nastase believes. She is leading a five-star hotel in the center of the capital, but doesn’t brag about it and modestly says that the most important thing is team work – with a motivated team. She does not accept compromise when it affects quality, and logic and common sense help her avoid making mistakes. The crisis must not be regarded as a fatality, but as a challenge for professional evolution.

BH: You are the first woman in Romania assigned with the highest position in a 5star hotel, and now you are at the second mandate. Tell us about your experience.

SN: The dynamic, challenges and responsibility are only few of the elements to describe such an experience. For one who did not feel it personally, the hospitality has a lot of challenges, but this is the meaning of our satisfaction, the self-motivation which helps us continuing to develop, to self-improving and reinvent each time. I have always looked at these challenges in my professional life as a chance to develop, to find value and “hidden” potential. This is how I received the proposal to run the Howard Johnson Grand Plaza Bucharest. A chance which was not only a professional stage, but a responsibility which determined me more to find internal resources to confirm the confidence I was invested with, both by the board of directors and my entire team. With each occasion, by personal example, I am trying to transfer to my team and workplace, in general, a part of me, that side where performance is counted not only in figures, but in our guests’ appreciation, in the open, positive attitude, always results oriented.

BH:According to a recent study (PwC), even though tourism sector in Romania has a growth potential, the inadequate transport and hotelier infrastructure is against its development. How do you comment?

SN:The poor infrastructure and the absence of investment projects are few causes of weak development of the Romanian tourism. These aspects are seen mainly in the leisure tourism area, focused more on destinations outside Bucharest.

Besides the undeveloped infrastructure elements, a contributor is the accommodation, which is not up to the international standards in hospitality industry and also the price, which sometimes is pretty high for touristic packages, all of this making most of the tourists to re-plan their visit in our country when they choose their holiday destination.

Only when we will understand that a good infrastructure and quality hotel services, doubled by an equal advertising, are those characteristics which make a difference in attracting tourists, we will be able to move where we belong, taking into consideration the resources Romania has when it comes to tourism.

BH: According to the same study, this field feels the lack of qualified personnel (chefs, waiters, maids), most because many Romanians with such qualification choose to work abroad. Is Howard Johnson facing the same problem?

SN:The lack of qualified personnel feels definitely in the hospitality industry. This can be explained by the fact that professional schools or high-schools does not offer enough graduates with the necessary qualification; there are no more professional schools in this field and the ones remained are now taking care of professional reconversion.

The selection, hiring and integration process is very important for our organization’ success. This process needs a well-designed and executed plan. All over the world in hospitality industry is recognized the special attention which must be addressed to this activity. Selection, employment and integration is the starting point of building quality in our hotel.

We emphasize on training our personnel, but unfortunately it happens that after obtaining the qualification with our help and gaining some experience, that person to choose working abroad. In order to stop this phenomenon we try to motivate them enough to choose to stay.

BH: Romania has one of the lowest hotel occupancy rates in Europe, of 26 %; meanwhile Bucharest has an occupancy rate more than double (62%). Nevertheless, the revenue per available room (RevPar) is going down even in Bucharest for the last 4 years. How dynamic was the hotel market in 2012, compare to 2011? Which were the elements to define this market?

SN:The occupancy rate, higher in Bucharest, shows the fact that this is our important attraction point for visitors, both for leisure and business, while for the rest of the cities in Romania there is still dependence of a higher volume of local visitors-local market. There is a close connection between the economic development of one country and tourism evolution both internal/external, the studies showing that countries with positive economic growth registered increase regarding the no of visitors. We are talking here about business tourism (given that the companies travel budget has been modified / diminished permanently), as well as leisure tourism. Unfortunately, leisure tourism is not so strong to have a significant impact, thus coming from the fact that is still room for improvement regarding the ways of promoting Romania as a holiday destination, things not related to each hotel, but more from a global strategy, and in terms of customer services.

The European RevPar decreased very much starting with the second half of 2008 and recovered slightly in the second half of 2010, in Bucharest having a slight increase only in 2011, coming more from volume than tariffs. Furthermore, the market does not register important modifications comparing to what happen in 2011 and probably this situation will maintain at least until next year, given that the world economic situation has a strong connection with travel budgets, both for business and leisure.

BH: Which are the segments that registered the highest increase, respective decrease? (The segment of events and conferences still remain one of the main sources of income?)

SN:In this year first half I have noticed an interesting dynamic on events segment, which was very active. We distinguish the companies’ interest to organize trainings, seminars and workshops. The existence of a great no of conference spaces, superimposed over the actual economic context, determined an alteration of the purchasing behavior and ongoing commercial terms, especially by decreasing the periods of pre-notice and preparation of the events, increasing of no of “last-moment” type cancellation, as well as the concentration on the negotiation of prices in preference of organizing details.

BH: Can we talk this year about a recurrence at prices similar to those in 2009-2010, taking into consideration that hoteliers have been forced to drastically reduce the tariffs, due to financial crisis?

SN:The crisis impact on the hotel market was connected not only with the no of tourists, but also with the decrease of tariffs and this was done not only to sell lower than others, but also for permanently adapting to a new, not comfortable situation, where the politics and travel budgets have been revised to a minimum. The high demand for accommodation existing before the financial crisis brought the tariffs to a level comparable with any other European prestigious destination. It is less probable to experiment too soon a spectacular tariff increase, even though a process of recovery and repositioning of hotels regarding category and tariffs already started.

BH: Which is the strategy adapted by Howard Johnson this year to attract clients? How much does the tariff increase due to this strategy?

SN:The consistency is one of the most important vectors which in this period can make the difference. Even if is about business or leisure tourism, what dictates in consumer choice is the value for money. That is also why in 2012 we

have tried to offer more, for a price already extremely competitive, we have tried to be better, promptly and more innovative in offering the clients the satisfaction of receiving a service according to our promises.

BH: What investments were done this year (if they exist) for modernization of the hotel? What is it about?

SN:In order to sustain the quality of the product and services offered by Howard Johnson, we continued to invest in training programs for our personnel and in monitoring and evaluating the quality of the offered services. We also have worked to improve some aspects of the product, i.e. the facilities in the rooms by re-accessorizing and partially or whole re-doing the interior design elements and equipment inside rooms. We have started an important project in 2012 which include increasing the spaces designed for events, by creating a new one, with all facilities which can be found, situated on the first floor and is the Platinum terrace. This is designed for coffee-breaks (at events taking place in Platinum ballroom), as well as for cocktail parties. It is the perfect space for events during the warm season.

BH:What do you like about the hotel you are running? Which are the pluses and the minuses?

SN:The team I am working with I consider being one of the greatest “qualities” of this hotel. The “Brand” Howard Johnson Grand Plaza is built up especially with the team, with its particularities. The value of this brand, and implicitly of the team, have been and will be the positive attitude, availability of making that extra-effort to exceed guests’ expectations, and the last, but not the least, the willing of performing better in a team. I consider that we are a strong team, which assumes various roles with professionalism and hospitality spirit, and this is our most important asset.


Sonia Nastase: Consecventa este unul dintre cei mai importanti vectori care in aceasta perioada ar putea face diferenta.

In viata, ca si in afaceri este important sa creezi premisele pe termen lung, iar consecventa este unul dintre cei mai importanti vectori care pot face diferenta, considera Sonia Nastase. Conduce un hotel de cinci stele, in centrul Capitalei, dar nu se lauda cu acest lucru si spune cu modestie ca cel mai important este munca in echipa – cu o echipa motivata -. Nu accepta compromisul atunci cand acesta afecteaza calitatea, iar logica si bunul simt o ajuta sa nu greseasca. Criza nu trebuie privita ca o fatalitate ci ca o provocare in evolutia profesionala.

BH:Sunteti prima femeie din Romania, care a ocupat cea mai inalta pozitie intr-un hotel de 5 stele, iar acum sunteti la al doilea mandat. Povestiti-ne aceasta experienta.

SN:Dinamica, Provocarile si Responsabilitatea sunt poate doar cateva din elemente care descriu o astfel de experienta. Pentru cine nu a experimentat pe “pielea” lui, domeniul ospitalitatii are multe provocari dar acestea sunt chiar cele care ofera de multe ori acel plus de satisfactie, acea motivare interioara care ne ajuta sa continuam ne dezvoltam, sa ne autodepasim si sa ne reinventam, de fiecare data. Intotdeauna am primit in viata profesionala provocarile ca pe o sansa de a dezvolta, de a gasi valoarea si potentialul “ascuns la vedere” in jurul nostru. Asa a fost si sansa de a conduce hotelul Howard Johnson Grand Plaza. O sansa care a fost inca de la inceput, pentru mine, nu doar o noua etapa profesionala ci si o responsabilitate pe masura, ceea ce m-a determinat si mai mult sa gasesc resursele interne pentru a confirma increderea cu care am fost investita, atat fata de board-ul director cat si fata de intreaga mea echipa. Cu fiecare ocazie, prin puterea exemplului personal, incerc să transfer atat echipei cat si locului de munca, in general, o parte din mine; Acea parte in care performanta nu se regaseste doar in cifre, ci si in aprecierea oaspetilor nostri, in atitudinea deschisa, pozitivă, intotdeauna orientată catre rezultate.

BH: Conform unui studiu recent (PwC), deşi sectorul turistic al României are un potenţial real de creştere, infrastructura de transport şi cea hotelieră inadecvată împiedică dezvoltarea acestuia. Cum comentati ?

SN:Infrastructura deficitara si absenta unor proiecte de investitii sunt doar unele din cauzele unei dezvoltari mai slabe a turismului romanesc. Acest aspecte sunt resimtite mai ales in zona de turismul de leisure, axat foarte mult pe destinatii din afara Bucurestiului.

Pe langa elementele de infrastructura subdezvoltate contribuie si conditiile de cazare, care inca nu se ridica la standardul international din industria ospitatlitatii, dar si pretul, care uneori este destul de ridicat la nivelul pachetelor turistice, toate acestea facand ca o parte a turistilor sa isi replanifice o vizita in tara noastra atunci cand isi aleg destinatia de vacanta.

Abia atunci cand vom intelege ca o infrastructura bine pusa la punct si servicii hoteliere de calitate, dublate de o promovare pe masura, sunt acele caracteristici care fac diferenta in atragerea turistilor, vom putea sa ne plasam acolo unde ar trebui sa fim, luand in consideratie resursele de care dispune Romania atunci cand vine vorba de turism.

BH:Conform aceluiasi studiu, sectorul resimte lipsa unui număr suficient de personal calificat în domeniu (bucătari, ospătari, cameriste), în principal ca urmare a faptului că mulţi dintre românii cu astfel de calificări au preferat să lucreze în străinătate. Exista astfel de probleme si la HJ ?

SN:Lipsa de personal calificat se resiminte cu siguranta in industria ospitalitatii. Acest lucru poate fi explicat prin faptul ca scolile si liceele profesionale nu furnizeaza suficienti

absolventi cu pregatirea necesara, nu mai exista asa multe scoli de formare profesionala in domeniu iar cele care ar trebui sa faca acest lucru se ocupa acum de reconversie profesionala. Persoanele care se recalifica urmand cursurile acestor scoli au deja ani de munca in spate si in consecinta au si alte asteptari.

Procesul de selectare, angajare si integrare a personalului este deosebit de important pentru succesul organizatiei noastre. Acest proces necesita un plan bine pus la punct si bine executat. Pretutindeni în industria turismului este recunoscuta atentia deosebita ce trebuie acordata acestei activitati. Selectia, încadrarea si integrarea angajatilor este punctul de plecare pentru construirea calitatii în hotelul nostru.

Noi punem mare accent pe instruirea personalului pe care il aducem sa lucreze la noi in hotel insa din pacate intalnim cazuri in care dupa ce au obtinut calificarea cu ajutorul nostru si au dobandit exeperienta necesara, pleaca sa lucreze in strainatate. Pentru stoparea acestui fenomen incercam sa ii motivam suficient pentru ai face sa ramana.

BH: România are una dintre cele mai scăzute rate de ocupare hotelieră din Europa, de 26%, în timp ce hotelurile din Bucureşti au un grad de ocupare mai mult decât dublu (62%). Cu toate acestea, veniturile pe cameră disponibilă (REVpar) au scăzut chiar şi în Bucureşti în ultimii patru ani. Cat de dinamica a fost piata hoteliera in 2012, comparativ cu 2011? Care au fost elementele care au definit aceasta piata?

SN:Gradul de ocupare, mai ridicat in Bucuresti, indica faptul ca in continuare acesta este punctul de atractie preponderent pentru vizitatori atat de tip leisure cat si business, pe cand in restul oraselor din Romania este insa in continuare dependenta de un volum ridicat de vizitatori locali – piata locala. Exista o stransa legatura intre gradul de dezvoltare a economiei unei tari si evolutia turismului atat intern/extern, studiile aratand ca tarile cu evolutie economica pozitiva au inregistrat cresteri in ceea ce priveste numarul de vizitatori. Vorbim aici atat de turismul de business (in conditiile in care bugetele de calatorie ale companiilor s-au modificat/diminuat permanent), cat si de turismul de leisure. Din pacate turismul de leisure nu este atat de puternic incat sa aiba un impact semnificativ, aceasta venind insa si din faptul ca inca mai este loc de imbunatatire in ceea ce priveste modalitatile de promovare a Romaniei ca si destinatie, care nu tin neaparat de fiecare hotel in parte cat mai mult de o strategie globala, cat si in ceea ce priveste serviciile furnizate clientilor.

RevPar-ul pe Europa a cazut vertiginous incepand cu a doua jumatate a lui 2008 si s-a redresat usor abia in a doua jumatate a anului 2010, in Bucuresti inregistrandu-se o usoara crestere abia in 2011, venind mai degraba din volum decat din tarife. In continuare piata nu sufera mari modificari fata de ceea ce s-a intamplat in 2011 si probabil ca aceasta situatie se va mentine cel putin pana anul viitor, in conditiile in care situatia economica mondiala are o stransa legatura cu bugetele de calatorie, atat de business cat si de leisure.

BH:Care au fost segmentele care au inregistrat cele mai mari cresteri, respectiv scaderi? ( Segmentul de evenimente si conferinte a ramas in continuare una dintre sursele principale de venit? )

SN:In prima jumatate a acestui am remarcat o dinamica interesanta pe segmentul de evenimente, care a fost foarte activ. Se remarca in continuare interesul companiilor de a organiza training-uri, seminarii sau workshop-uri. Deasemena existenta unui numar mare de spatii de conferinta pe piata, suprapusa peste contextul economic actual, a determinat o modificare a comportamentului de achizitie si de derulare a termenilor comerciali in mod special prin reducerea perioadelor de pre-anuntare si pregatire a evenimentelor, cresterea numarului de anulari de tip "last – moment" cat si concentrarea negocierilor pe elementul de pret in defavoarea detaliilor de organizare.

BH:Avand in vedere ca hotelierii au fost obligati sa reduca tarifele drastic, pe fondul crizei financiare, se poate vorbi anul acesta despre o revenire la tarife similare cu cele din 2009- 2010?

SN:Impactul crizei asupra pietei hoteliere a fost nu numai unul legat de numarul de turisti, ci si unul legat de scaderea tarifelor, iar lucrul aceste nu s-a facut doar in ideea de a vinde mai jos decat ceilalti, ci din ideea de a te adapta permanent unei situatii nu tocmai confortabile, in care politicile si bugetele de calatorie au fost revizuite la un minim. Cererea foarte mare de locuri de cazare existenta inainte de izbucnirea crizei financiare adusese tarifele de cazare la un nivel comparabil cu oricare alta destinatie europeana de prestigiu. Este putin probabil sa experimentam prea curand o crestere tarifara spectaculoasa, desi a inceput un proces de redresare si repozitionare a hotelurilor din punct de vedere al categoriei si tarifelor.

BH:Care este strategia pe care a adoptat-o HJ anul acesta pentru a atrage clienti? Cu cat a crescut traficul, in urma acestei strategii?

SN:Consecventa este unul dintre cei mai importanti vectori care in aceasta perioada ar putea face diferenta. Fie ca este vorba de turismul de afaceri sau de cel de leisure ceea ce dicteaza in alegerea consumatorului este raportul calitate – pret. De aceea si in 2012 am incercat sa oferim mai mult, pentru un pret deja extrem de competitiv, am incercat sa fim mai buni, mai promti si mai inovativi in a oferi clientilor nostri satisfactia de a primi cu adevarat un serviciu pe masura promisiunilor.

BH: Ce investitii ati facut anul acesta( daca exista) in modernizarea hotelului? Exista planuri de extindere a lantului hotelier in tara sau in Bucuresti? Despre ce planuri este vorba?

SN:Pentru a sustine calitatea produsului si a serviciilor oferite de Howard Johnson, am continuat sa investim in programe de training ale personalului si in programe de monitorizare si evaluare a calitatii serviciilor pe care le oferim.De asemenea am lucrat si la imbunatatirea unor diferite aspecte ale produselor si anume imbunatatirea facilitatilor oferite in camera prin re-accesorizarea si refacerea partiala sau integrala a unor elemente de design si dotare din camere.

Am mai inceput un proiect destul de mare in anul 2012 care presupune marirea spatiilor destinate evenimentelor prin creearea unuia nou, cu toate facilitatile necesare, si anume amenajarea terasei Platinum de la etajul etajul 1. Aceasta este destinata atat coffee break-urilor evenimentelor desfasurate la Howard Johnson Grand Plaza cat si pentru cocktail party-uri. Este un spatiu perfect pentru evenimentele care se desfasoara in anotimpul calduros.

BH: Ce va place la hotelul pe care-l conduceti. Care sunt plusurile si minusurile?

SN:Echipa cu care lucrez consider ca este una dintre cele mai mari “calitati” ale acestui hotel. “Brandul” Howard Johnson Grand Plaza se construieste in primul rand cu echipa, cu particularitatile ei. Valorile acestui brand, si implicit ale echipei, au fost si vor fi atitudinea pozitiva, disponibilitatea de a face acel extra-efort care sa intreaca asteptarile oaspetilor si, nu in ultimul rand, dorinta de a fi mereu mai buni in echipa.Consider ca suntem o echipa bine sudata, care asuma roluri foarte variate cu foarte mult profesionalism si spirit al ospitalitatii, si acesta este atu-ul nostru cel mai important

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