We are originally and exclusively 60s. Because of our flexibility
Interview with Monika Hilm, director of Parkhotel Praha: The dimension of hotel business
Parkhotel was created in the 1960s. It was the first prestigious hotel in Prague. Recently, it has returned to its grounds by being newly renovated for international and Prague citizens. “What is really brilliant about Parkhotel, apart from going back to the 60s, is that you can buy the hotel exclusively for yourself. If you are a company with more than 250 people, financially it can be wiser to buy the whole Parkhotel for you and your guest alone,” says Mrs. Hilm.
Dear Mrs. Hilm, you did an awesome job with the hotel. How did it all happen?
Two years ago, when I came here, the hotel looked horrible at the time. I admitted on the website, that I agree with the people who consider that Parkhotel is “bad looking”. We then started nesting and I got in contact with a Chamber of architects. The guy who came here was Petr Hlaváček. He is related to the original architect of Parkhotel, Mr. Zdeněk Edel. I wanted to find out, how it really looked originally. The outside did not go with the inside. He came here, and we had spent a whole day and went through building. I learned what was his original idea.
This is two and half years ago…
Yes. We bought the hotel in 2013. I took over the management and I started doing the renovation.
Why did you buy the hotel?
The main idea was to buy it because of the land. One of the owners is Daramis group, a Real Estate Company. They were interested in developing the land next to the hotel. They wanted to put an apartment building there. They are not hotel people, but they hired me and that’s the moment when we started to change from just having the hotel to doing something here.
The original idea was not renovate?
No. It was to “run the hotel, to turn it into making money and do what you have to do.” However, I realized that we needed to do more.
Is the apartment building still coming?
Yes, behind the hotel. The idea is to benefit on the services from Parkhotel. If you buy an apartment there, you will be able to have housekeeping, you can order room service, and get your laundry done. It’s a new way of thinking of apartments in Prague. I explained to owners, that if I want to buy a fancy apartment, I want a hotel that also looks nice.
Let ‘s go back to the renovation. You started a year ago. Is it done and ready?
It’s done. And we never closed. We were open the whole time.
Many Czech people remember Parkhotel from old movies. When I came here, I really felt the 1960s.
That‘s exactly what I wanted to achieve.
How did you do that?
I convinced everybody, that it is the right thing to do. Not to go modern. I ‘ve really been pushing people to go back to the 60s. I want to convince them how great concept the concept really is. That was my biggest challenge. Once everybody was on board, it was easy.
How does the original architect, Mr. Edel, like the reconstruction?
He said that it looks fantastic. To me it’s the best reward. He told me that he came after the reconstruction, in 1993, and he cried after he left. Previously, the inside did not go with the outside. Now, people come back and they see and feel 60s. I want the hotel to be part of Prague 7 community. I don‘t want to be a hotel only for foreigners.
That’s why you organize open days?
The space is quite large. Most hotels don’t have big public spaces. In fact, most people hide from big open spaces. Prague 7 is full of people and they don’t really have a “centre”. Therefore, we want to use the space around the hotel for them. For example, during the winter, there is an ice skating rink available. Also, in the summer , I hope to get permission for an outdoor cinema. The guests will like it. We are not Old Town Square; we have to attract the guests. They want to see how Czech people live.
But you still have to do business.
That’s part of the idea. We want people to be interested in staying in an icon; something that has been a part of Prague history rather than another modern hotel. Maybe it‘s because I come from a hotel chain. I worked in nine different countries and it does not matter which country you are in. All hotels look the same. Here, when I had the opportunity to create what I wanted to create, I wanted all of our guests to feel like they are in Prague. For example, we are having Czech designers make special uniforms based on 60s; and we are starting a cooperation with Botas company. We want to have the 60s icons brought out. We are also going to have a Kofola tap in the bar. Guests are invited to free tasting.
It‘s more about art. Art hotels are mostly small. But you have 240 rooms…
Groups are also interested. Groups occupy half of the hotel. We have a lot of Americans. They love history. It‘s obvious that foreigners, whether they travel in groups or not, are interested in this period. That is why we have to treat them delicately.
What about the rooms and further renovation?
We did not touch the rooms and outside yet. I‘m also trying to put the playground in for children in front of the hotel. Now we need to take a break. We had no holiday last year. Now, when it is all done, we will see how the hotel runs. How will the 60s work and how much further can we take it. I am in touch with companies related to 60s and they want to do exhibitions.
What about business guests?
We have grown this market significantly since we took over the hotel three yeas ago. There used to be very little business people in the hotel. Parkhotel is doing very well in the meeting segment, and we grown from less than one percent to fifteen percent now. Even during the reconstruction. This is the area we are going to focus on. What is really brilliant about Parkhotel apart from going back to the 60s,is that you can buy the hotel exclusively for you.
Yes. Our slogan is “Catch us being exclusive with you”. If you are a company and you are more than 250 people, financially it can be sounder to buy the whole Parkhotel for you and your guest alone. There are so many hotels in Prague, but we are quite unique in this.
Why would companies buy the whole Parkhotel?
We have parking. If you have people coming from different parts of Czech republic or Prague, it is a great feature. All our meeting rooms are technically brand new. Very unique are our open spaces. It is really difficult to find a hotel that has such large connected open spaces. Balancing between how many people you can fit in there and the number of rooms works really well. It’s more towards exhibitions, workshops, and fairs. You can have social interaction in five different rooms. Also, companies can expose there their products. You use the altar area for evening parties later.
Why is this unique?
When a company comes and says they want whole hotel exclusively, the hotel mark-up is enormous. We‘ve done intense calculations on how to make this business work. Actually if you do it properly, it does not have to be so expensive.
So you have good prices?
We are a good value for money. We would rather have more volume than have high prices. We are realistic.
Is it mainly for foreigners?
No. One of our most reliable client is the ministries. We work very well with the government.
How much did social media interaction change in the hotel segment in last years?
When I came here, we did not use Facebook as a hotel at all. Now it’s very important to communicate with guests. Other hotels already have connections with guest. We are slowly getting better.
There is also an interactive communicator on your website.
We say Talk to us. You don’t need to wait for an email or call. This is also our message to party organisers. We are not a part of the chain, which means we can be as flexible as you like us to be. When it comes in terms and conditions, we can also be very flexible. For example, advertising your company around the hotel. Larger chains are limited; they have to play within the rules of the brand. This is where we can be original. Not because of the price, but because of the flexibility.
Well you know very well how the chain looks like. You worked for couple of them…
I know what not to do and also what to pick up. Let‘s be honest. Chains have the best standardization.
Do you have any special services for more sophisticated clients?
We just started cooperation with a physiotherapist, who is running our massage rooms. To me, it’s something different. If you crack your neck because you were sitting in a plane for too long, he will actually do something instead of giving you just a nice massage. This is something different. One of the keys for travelers these days is not necessarily services you can offer to them, but to make sure that you have a stable and free high speed Wi-Fi. I‘m Scandinavian, and in my book it‘s not even a discussion point. It’s my right as a human being to have Wi-Fi. Just as it is a right for everyone to have a bed to sleep in.
Do you have some special requirement for your employees?
I wish I could. The most important thing to make clear for people who work here – if you don’t like your job, then let me help you find the job that you like. Whether that is inside or outside the hotel. People who work here need to be treated in the best possible way and fairly. It is difficult to catch good people because you cannot attract them with a salary. Once you have it, for a few months, its not a motivator anymore. You need to do different things.
Prague.TV in cooperation with Czech Leaders Magazine
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