How has your portfolio of luxury hotels in Turkey performed so far? And what are your expectations of the year?
Travel and demand started to recover as of June after domestic and international flight restrictions have been lifted/eased. Leisure season which normally was supposed to start in June shifted forward. Gradually recovery process increased figures to satisfying levels especially during August, September & October. Leisure demand has driven post-Covid revenues in Q3 & Q4 beyond expectations.
Seasonal related decrease is expected as of November however festive season outlook in December is still very promising.
Which are the biggest challenges you have been facing during this pandemic? What about the opportunities you may have identified?
Restricted flight schedules, changed booking behaviours and concerns about staying in large properties were the main challenges we faced in our relatively large and luxury properties.
However we managed this obstacles well with high hygiene standards, clear communications to partners/guest and approached new markets which all helped to create a diverse and healthy business mix.
While overseeing a relatively large portfolio of luxury branded properties, how do you ensure their positioning?
I oversee a nice range of properties which all have obvious strengths and opportunities and their core values positions them. Our well experienced and high motivated teams ensure to keep hotel standards, service levels and price position at a proper and affordable level. We know our strengths and communicate those in a very clear and transparent way to our guests and partners.
To what extent do you think the perception of luxury in hospitality has changed? (If in any way)
The Covid-19 crises has impacted individuals from all social and economic statuses. The virus does not spare members of royal families or celebrities, individuals who often appear to be resistant to any other kind of crisis. As a results of this, people no longer feel comfortable spending large amounts of money on services which are not strictly necessary.
Nevertheless there is no doubt that the industry will bounce back. We already have seen the first signals during this summer. More privacy, more digital, more hygiene will remain our priorities at least until vaccine is found.
Overall, Turkey has succeeded in generating a safe awareness perception when it comes to Covid-19?
As said, general perception is that Turkey is undergoing this period with more reasonable impacts. All major cities remain connected globally and industry figures are much more positive than we see in other countries. Regular audits and certification programs by concerned authorities keep the industry aware, attentive and careful during this period which help to keep Turkey an attractive and safe destination to travel.
What is your view on discovering, nurturing and motivating talent? Are human resources facing additional challenges having a service a customer target with different preferences and demands?
Creating a learning culture by exploring limitless possibilities between jobs, brands and career paths is our key success factor. Operational challenges for maintaining luxury service are tailored by hands-on learning approach which is combined by the resilience skills of our team members. We are monitoring closely changing guest profiles & behaviours and ensure that our teams are well prepared to meet new luxury service needs after Covid-19.
New guest profile is spending more time in our properties, staying longer and care about privacy more than ever. We have implemented many softwares to minimize overall contact and provide our guests a touchless service. We adapt ourselves to new customer needs, providing both a safe but sincere service at all levels. Overall, Accor Hotel’s new colleague value proposition is linked with a limitless “Heartist Journey” philosophy which enables us to create a very diversified guest experience.
As a metropolis, Istanbul is still attracting major projects such as The Peninsula or Mandarin Oriental. Is there a risk of saturation and pressure on rates?
We do not see new market players as risks to our business. We consider especially international, luxury brands such as MO or Peninsula as a contribution to our destination image.
Istanbul is a magnificent city which is big enough and ready to serve all guests profiles globally.
Your portfolio includes both city and resort locations. Tell us more about the competitive advantages of the luxury brands of Accor which are present in Turkey?
Turkey is one of the unique countries where Accor is present with almost all luxury brands. We offer a wide range of products and services which meet all type of guest needs. Great communication and synergy among our properties, great locations, unique service quality and high motivated teams help us to stand out from our competitors. Latest market share reports confirm that our properties perform well above our competitive sets in almost all major cities, especially in Istanbul and Izmir
The ongoing pandemic has demonstrated that innovation is essential, in order to maintain desirability and positioning of each brand?
As discussed above, new guest profile after Covid has certainly different expectations. We already implemented and invested a lot in our operations to provide a clean, safe and touch-less stay in our properties. Our teams are well trained to provide luxury services without making guests feel uncomfortable. We monitor promising increases in the number of long term stays which confirm that guests consider our properties as their home away from home. We will remain our focus on new innovations which will help to keep this momentum.
Beyond constraints, travellers are expecting an exceptional experience.
Our luxury hotels are doing everything to protect the well-being of our guests. Health and safety concerns and financial hardship due to the pandemic will deter many travelers from international travel. In the mid-term after the crisis, a large portion of travelers will likely avoid airports and crowded properties and prefer cheaper, safer domestic trips to less-populated, drive-to destinations.
Hence we need to ensure to target new, realistic source markets and keep our hotels affordable without reducing any luxury services. We need to provide personalized, boutique services to attract guests to our large, luxury properties. Combining boutique services in our large spaces and outdoor facilities will be the key to increase occupancies and meet our luxury guest expectations.
Ugur Talayhan started his career in 2000 as a Head Chef at a five star Sheraton property. Today is the General Manager of the Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul one of the most profitable properties in Accor‘s luxury hotels portfolio. Talayhan also holds the position of Regional Vice President Turkey, Accor Luxury Brands (Raffles Istanbul, Fairmont Istanbul, Sofitel Istanbul, Swissotel (Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bodrum), M Gallery, Pullman.
More from LEADERS
Cartier CEO Cyrille Vigneron: Lifestyle in major cities has become similar – a balance must be found between consistency and
CoVid19 is accelerating a paradoxical trend towards convergence and divergence. In the globally connected world, lifestyle in cosmopolitan cities has …
Exceptional insights by Arnaud de Saint-Exupéry, Area Vice President, Hyatt U.K. & Ireland (Exclusive Interview)
Your current portfolio in the U.K. and Ireland has been expanding. Tell us about the latest novelties. In line with …