Kempinski River Park Bratislava

How Kempinski top managers see the hotel, the market and the city

Bratislava is expecting a new unique hotel opening soon. Kempinski Hotel River Park Bratislava***** has its Grand opening on 17 June. Konstantin Zeuke, General Manager and Walter Stecher, Director of Sales & Marketing of the new Kempinski hotel shared their opinions on the market, competition and the destination with us:


HotelBlog: There is a difficult situation on the market these days, with many new hotels recently opened and still stagnating demand. How do you plan to differentiate your hotel from competition (not only comparing yourself with Bratislava hotels but also with Vienna competitors)?
Konstantin Zeuke: ´Kempinski is a brand with over 100 year history, our hotels are not similar to each other, they are very individual, designed to fit the building and the destination. This makes us unique comparing to other hotel chains such as Hilton, Marriott or Sheraton.
Of course there is a crisis that everybody sees and feels and we are feeling it as well as we are trying to sell the hotel. And it is quite challenging, because everything is very much price driven now. But I can see that if you are able to provide quality as we do in High Tatras for example, people will come. When we opened the Grand Hotel Kempinski there, we were selling rooms for a high price, but people were willing to pay for it.
The resort hotel is of course different than the city hotel, because in the city hotel depends on corporate clients. We are focusing a lot on this segment as well as leisure and I thing there is a potential for such a beautiful contemporary hotel like the Kempinski Hotel River Park.
The size of the hotel is good for the city, its not too big - 231 rooms. We have conference facilities for up to 700 people for reception and up to 280 guests for meetings. This is what the city needs. The challenge here is that Bratislava is not that much known so we need to also focus on promoting the destination.
Konstantin Zeuke agrees that there is competition on Bratislava market, but as he says: ´The city needs more good quality hotels, strong brands which can promote the destination worldwide. We are going to work very close with hotel brands and the city, to sell the destination together, not to sell against each other.´
As the price strategy is also very important, Konstantin Zeuke says: ´We are selling deluxe rooms at highest quality, you can imagine it has a price, but I think the rates we are going to charge will be good for the city. At the beginning we are trying to put the hotel in the right direction. I think now we are on a right track, we have a lot of requests, people are interested in the hotel, even that it is not finished yet. So the demand is there.
We are of course comparing ourselves with Vienna and Budapest which are very strong cities, they have corporate and leisure as well as MICE business. Bratislava only has corporate and MICE, not that many leisure guests.
We have to compete with Vienna as our main neighbor city. We have an advantage, because we are new hotel with a lot of nice facilities, a spa on the 11th floor overlooking the Danube with the pool of the size of Olympic pool nearly. We have beautiful, fashionable restaurants, banquet facilities and exclusive suites. The hotel is unique, we can easily compare ourselves with 5* luxury hotels in Vienna.

Walter Stecher agrees: ´We are trying to set our competition range not just in Bratislava, but also in the twin city region Vienna- Bratislava. I believe that the entire region, together with Vienna international airport, has a great potential.
We welcome the Sheraton here in Bratislava, we are happy that there is a 2nd new hotel in town, because I personally believe that it helps to bring the certain dynamic and international visibility to the market.´
HotelBlog: You meet a lot of potential clients these days. How do they react to Bratislava as a destination?
Konstantin Zeuke: People don’t know Bratislava, we were in London a few weeks ago, then Germany, Middle East, Italy, France, Spain etc. and if I say Kempinski, people say ´oh wow´ and then ´Bratislava, where is it?´. And people don’t know there is an international airport next door - the Vienna airport. You can fly anywhere from there and it’s just 45 minutes from our hotel. It’s nothing, in Munich it’s the same, the airport is 45 minutes away from any city hotel. So Vienna airport is a good tool for us to promote the city and to get people to Slovakia.
Bratislava also needs big events, international summits, exhibitions, etc. , but there is no big function or conference centers. Incheba has to be renovated in my opinion. Vienna and Budapest have much better modern conference facilities.
Bratislava has to invest in development, good quality chains and also independent hotels are here now and if we would have a good conference center I am sure that city could compete with Prague, Budapest and Vienna.´
I am seeing from the reactions of my international partners at the moment, that Bratislava, being the secondary city next to Vienna, Budapest and Prague, has tremendous potential for MICE and leisure clients.
With the segment of corporate clients you can only control who is coming to your hotel, not who is coming to the city. What you can control is the leisure and MICE segment, which has the biggest potential.
I have been traveling for a couple of months internationally now and everybody was very positive, because Bratislava is so close to Vienna airport with extraordinary flight connections worldwide. Open Schengen borders, as well as the Euro currency, offer the major advantage, especially for international meeting and conferences. Within continental Europe the Euro is definitely important, it helps to overcome the question of exchange rate.


HotelBlog: Bratislava is still missing attention from leisure travelers. Do you see a potential for the city to attract also this segment in the future?

Konstantin Zeuke: ´There is a potential for Bratislava as a leisure destination, but it has to be promoted properly. Bratislava is offering a lot, not only the castle with the beautiful historical center, museums, theater with the opera concerts, but also surroundings of the city, Devin castle, wine region, Modra. Bratislava is beautiful city, it’s not a big city, it’s very relaxing and to me not stressful at all.
When I first came to Slovakia, people were telling me that the quality of services is not that good and that this country is not on the level to have a 5* hotel. I was traveling a lot, I tested a lot of hotels, the willingness is there, people are nice and friendly, but it’s not always enough. You have to meet certain requirements, standards which international travelers are expecting.
Walter Stecher: ´Bratislava is a wonderful city. What I am seeing at the moment is that the city is developing and this is good. But this has to be planned properly, because what might work in Vienna, Prague or Budapest doesn’t necessarily have to be the best choice for the city.
Bratislava has a rich history, a beautiful city center and the Danube going through the city. The city now has 4 international hotel brands, which are trying to promote the destination outside the country. I think it is just a matter of attitude, everybody is willing to build up the destination, but we have to work together - hotels, the city and the national tourism board. With positive attitude towards the market and the environment and more tailor-made international sales, marketing & PR activities we can together promote this fantastic country.´

HotelBlog: You don’t have a lot of competitors in 5* luxury segment here in Bratislava. As you also mentioned before, you are competing also with Vienna hotels. What is the situation on Vienna hotel market now?
Konstantin Zeuke: ´Vienna luxury hotels are divided into 2 kinds – 5* star chain hotels like Hilton, Intercontinental, Marriot and other 5* hotels like Sacher, Imperial, Palais Schwarzenberg, now the Shangri- la will come and other 5* luxury hotels. They run still quite a high price, Vienna has this western European image and it was never entering into price war because there were not so many hotels. I think this is going to change in 2012-2013 because more 4-5* luxury hotels are opening soon. But Vienna doesn’t struggle with price war yet.
Walter Stecher has a lot of experience as he worked for couple of famous deluxe hotels in Vienna: ´Crisises are always repeating. When I started working in Vienna, it was the 9/11 crisis, people didn’t travel, but this was overcame quite quickly. This is a bigger crisis now, it lasts now for a year and a half and I personally expect it to end not before 2011/ 2012.´
Walter Stecher believes it is important to be flexible, but wise when setting up price strategy: ´We have a reputation towards our clients. If you look at the 5* hotels that are setting up very low prices, it is obvious that they cannot keep up with the standards, especially in the service quality.
For example we are going to offer butler services in suites, we have some outstanding features that not even hotels in Vienna, Budapest or Prague have. And this is something you have to continue in the future with, people expect it.´
Konstantin Zeuke claims that if hotels are able to get together to sell the destination and create similar price strategy, they can avoid the consequences of a price war: ´If one hotel is selling for 200 € and another similar hotel for 100 €, then you have a price war. Here in Bratislava established 4* hotels are trying to keep their prices, but some new 4* hotels are selling for a very low price, so it is difficult. This is not interfering with our hotel, because we are selling a 5* luxury property. Anyway we are going to enter with a good price for our hotel. Not too high but definitely not low, because we stand for a luxury and a quality.
You can not get a Ferrari for a Golf price, it’s not working that way.´




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