Room at the top

Newsroom 05/12/2011 | 11:00

Sonia Nastase, general manager at Howard Johnson Grand Plaza Hotel, gives Business Review her projections for the local five-star hotel industry and details the measures taken by the group to limit the fallout of the crisis.

Anda Sebesi


How is 2011 shaping up for the Romanian operations of Howard Johnson?
2011 has been a challenging year both for us and the whole Romanian hotel industry. It was a year when we had to continue the general mobilization of resources as in previous years and to “re-invent” some of the processes, attitudes and perceptions in order to come up trumps to face the current conditions of the local and international market. So our strategies for growth for 2011 focused in parallel on several areas: sales, operations and employees. We also focused on keeping our traditional customers satisfied and attracting new market segments (economic sectors that have not been as prominent so far and emerging markets).

Last but not least, we invested in training programs for our employees, programs for the monitoring and evaluation of the quality of services we offer, and different re-decoration and renewal projects such as: re-accessorizing and the partial or total recovery of some design elements and facilities of rooms, the re-design of some public spaces like Centro Bar&Lounge and Avalon restaurant, among others.

What turnover have you posted so far and what are your expectations for the end of 2011?
Howard Johnson Grand Plaza Hotel posted a turnover of about EUR 7 million in the first ten months of 2011. It is a similar level to the financial results posted in the same period of 2010. We expect a turnover of about EUR 8 million by the end of this year.

What is the hotel’s occupancy rate so far?
From January-November 2011 the Howard Johnson Grand Plaza hotel posted an average occupancy rate that was 2 percent higher than in the same period of last year. It was a moderate growth brought about by the summer months and weekends when the leisure segment depended on the international economic situation.

The current economic crisis has significantly reduced companies’ budgets, including those for business travel. To what extent has this affected Howard Johnson and what measures have you taken to counteract the negative effects of the downturn on your activity?

Indeed the current economic downturn has reduced the budgets and this trend will continue in 2012. In order to counteract the effects of these measures we have employed greater flexibility and put the focus on identification and adaptation to the needs of our customers. We also kept costs under control and worked constantly to improve our products and services in order to maintain our hotel at the level of our customers’ expectations.

Which business line has the greatest weight in your turnover?

In general it is accommodation, followed by the food & beverage segment, which has about a 44 percent weight, out of which 50 percent is represented by events. But there are also moments when the weight of both business lines – accommodation and food &beverage – was similar.

How do you think Romania’s five-star hotel market will develop next year?
It is difficult to predict the evolution of the market considering the constantly changing economic context. Five-star hotels in Bucharest provide services for the business segment rather than leisure, and on this segment the availability is high while the competition is tight. Business tourism depends a lot on the macroeconomic environment and its attractiveness to multinational companies and other categories of investors. As a result, the more this environment recoups its stability and attractiveness, the more the hotels from our segment will benefit. We also think that guests will continue to choose a hotel based on the price-quality ratio. It is an indicator from which all of those who continued to provide quality services in this period when the prices declined have won.

CV Sonia Nastase
September 2009 – general manager, Howard Johnson Grand Plaza
2005-2009 senior associate, Trend Hospitality
2003-2005 sales and marketing director, Howard Johnson Grand Plaza
1997-2003 assistant director of sales, Hilton Bucharest

2006 MBA, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies ASE and HEC Montreal & University of Ottawa
1996 Bucharest Polytechnic University

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