CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed Jean-Pierre Mifsud, the General Manager of CORINTHIA BUDAPEST since 2015. Mifsud, a graduate of Cornell University started his tenure at Corinthia Hotels in 2012, at Corinthia Hotel St George’s Bay (Malta).
How is the Corinthia Budapest positioned in city’s luxury market?
Corinthia Hotel Budapest has a long history serving celebrities, heads of states and other discerned guests. Guests love our wide spaces, light marble coloring and the airy feel of our glass covered atriums. The public spaces encourage to make meaningful connections, while enjoying a meal in one of our restaurants, or a signature cocktail in Le Bar. Our employees always go above and beyond their duties to create extraordinary experiences for our Guests, therefore, number of regular Guests in our Hotel is increasing year on year. Staying at Corinthia Hotel Budapest is more than just a Hotel experience, it is a journey to the Golden Age of Budapest, the era of the Grand Hotel Royal.
What are your major competitive advantages? Which are the weaknesses you are working to improve?
Guests may choose the hotel because of the facilities, but they stay and become loyal because of the service they receive and connections they make with the employees. Hence I always believed that our biggest advantage are our people. As our Hotel opened over 15 years ago, we still have a number of employees who are working with us since then. One of them is Mr. Tibor Meskal, our Senior Duty Manager, who first worked for the Grand hotel Royal as a waiter and room service boy in 1961 and now, at the age of 77, he still performs his duties with pride and honor. Speaking of our facilities, we have the largest SPA and covered pool among five star hotels in Budapest, a great variety of restaurants, offering delicacies from Hungary, Mediterranean, Asia and other parts of the word. Our ornate ballroom is a landmark on its own, with the first screening in Budapest of a motion picture by the Lumiére brothers that took place there. Many concerts were held in our Ballroom, frequented by Béla Bartók, the Hungarian composer.
In our business, there is always a room to grow and improve, and we constantly work on keeping our guest rooms modern, comfortable, staying up to date with market trends and every changing guests preferences. Having up to date technology is crucial in our business, hence we are regularly updating it throughout the hotel.
We are also working on employing more international colleagues, to bring their overseas experiences and to add diversity to our team. It also makes our guests feel special when our employees speaking their native languages.
For many years after opening, Corinthia Budapest was ranked as the no. 1 one luxury hotel in Budapest and still today you maintain a leading position. What has changed? Has the positioning of Budapest also changed?
Corinthia Hotel Budapest remains a market leader within upper segment of the market. What helped us to retain this position, in spite of many more hotels launching since we opened our Property is increasing popularity of Budapest and steady growth of Hungarian Economy, with one of the fastest growth rates in the EU. Number of international tourists arrivals has doubled since 2007, reaching over 4 million tourists a year. With new flight routes from USA, Europe, Asia and Middle East, Budapest has opened its doors to many emerging markets, eager to explore this city, bustling with various museums, parks, variety of restaurants and bars, making it the perfect holiday destination. If previously, partially due to lack of upscale hotels and shops, Budapest attracted many young budget-savvy visitors, now, with many luxury hotels and shopping options, Budapest appeals to upper segment of the market as well.
Corinthia Budapest is housed within a heritage building, widely considered as an icon. Tell us more about the location
The Hotel is located on Erzsebet Korut, previously called the Grand Boulevard. It is one of the most central and busiest parts of Budapest, a major thoroughfare built, like the Grand Hotel Royal, by 1896, Hungary’s Millenium. The Hotel is located in the transportation hub of the city, within 15 minutes walk from Budapest’s main attractions, including The Jewish Quarter, packed with historic and religious sights. Apart from being filled with unique architecture, synagogues and memorials, it hosts famous Ruin Bars, that attract thousands of tourists every year.
Are there any disruptors you are facing
Luxury travel seems to evolve every day. Nowadays luxury is very personal, individual. Everyone has a different idea of what it is. And as one generation of guests is replaced by another, with millennials becoming the dominant force in retail spending, people are no longer looking for a traditional hotel experience, but rather for a wholesome immersion into the destination’s culture, tradition and local flare. It has never been more important to deliver deeper experiences by focusing on personalization and local experiences. This generation is looking to have high quality amenities, smart technology and locally inspired ambience in a hotel. We are keeping up with the new generation’s preferences by constantly introducing new entertainment, such as life music, theme brunches, room packages, that include local experiences, and other initiatives that make our guests experience Hungary, regardless of how long they stay here.
What is the profile of your returning guests? Which are your key markets? Do you envisage potential from other new markets?
Our returning guests have found a home away from home at Corinthia Hotel Budapest. They come from all walks of life, predominantly companies’ executives, musicians, artists, politicians. They are emotionally connected to our Hotel and people who work here. They are a part of our extended Family.
Key markets for our hotel, as well as for Budapest overall, were traditionally European countries, like Germany, Austria, France, Italy, United Kingdom. Thanks a to a large cruise operation by American cruise companies, USA market is one of the main feeder markets for Budapest as well. We currently see growth from emerging markets, such as Middle East, Asia and CIS Countries, mainly encouraged by increased number of airline routes and efforts of Hungarian Tourism Authority in promoting the destination and creating new opportunities for us.
You are performing in a market with a great part of the skilled work force in hospitality preferring to work abroad. What is your approach to recruiting, nurturing and motivating talent?
As I already mentioned that I believe that people is what makes our Hotel stand out from competition and we have always been recognized as one of the Employees of Choice in Hungary, having a great retention of our talent. We thrive to retain our employees by giving them opportunities to learn, develop and grow. We have a variety of training programs, conducted by in-house training specialist and invited trainers, as well as many cross-exposure opportunities in destinations where other Corinthia Hotels are located. Our employees have many opportunities to work abroad within our Company as well as to choose their career path in the Hotel, as we host Open Door days, when our colleagues can gain exposure in other departments within the Hotel.
We believe that investing in people is what brings the highest return on a long run. And this has proven to be true throughout over 15 years of operation of our Property.
The hotel underwent an initial stage of renovations. Tell us more.
In 2002, the Corinthia Group has completed meticulous renovations of the former Grand Hotel Royal. A perfect blend of 19th century history with modern day luxury was achieved throughout all guest rooms while public spaces and the restaurants were topped with light, timeless elegance. The Grand Ballroom was also restored to its original, baroque style glory.
The bathhouse-like Royal Spa has undergone extensive refurbishment and received state-of the art equipment giving the wellness facilities a refined touch, while still keeping original elements of Zsolnay porcelain tiles and stained-glass windows.
In 2015, we have unveiled our fully remodelled one-bedroom Executive Suites, which in line with the initial design plan offer a combination of fresh, spacious and elegant interiors modelled by Martin Goddard.
What novelties should we expect from Corinthia Budapest in your F&B and wellness offerings?
Seasonally we are implementing a farm to table and local produce concept in our restaurant, Brasserie & Atrium. With this notion we are providing guests with a true Hungarian dining experience and are intentionally supporting our family focused Brunches built upon timeless family values, foundation to the Spirit of Corinthia. Secondly, we put emphasis on the importance of eating well, after all they say, „you are what you eat”.
This expands to our conference coffee breaks as well, where have incorporated the Mindfulness Experience. Upon selection, guests will enjoy healthy alternatives instead of the conventional selection and partake in refreshing yoga.
Furthermore, the Royal Spa offers ESPA treatments with monthly recommendations from our spa specialist. As a new add-on gel polish is now available to our already existing manicure and pedicure services.
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