Hospitality never leaves you!
It’s been almost 5 years since Natalia Polkovnikova got closely involved in the hospitality industry and it continues to interest her with new opportunities every day. So how did it all start?
I graduated from a Master’s programme “Experience Economy: Management in Hospitality and Tourism” at the Higher School of Economics in 2016. The learning process did not only give me the necessary theoretical background, but also provided with several perfect opportunities to explore the real world of hospitality.
First work experience in Hospitality
I was first given a chance to become an intern in Sales and Marketing Department at Lotte Hotel Moscow (2014). This internship was a first-hand opportunity to see the other side of hotel operations while not being a guest. Later (2015), I started my career in a small start-up hospitality company operating in daily rentals in 6 different countries where I was responsible for day-to-day communications with guests and helped them to resolve all kinds of daily problems. This work experience gave me a lot of insights and thereby I decided to devote my Master’s thesis to the research of customer experience among Airbnb users. In the pursuit of my two main fields of interests – hospitality and event management – I decided to continue my career as an Event Manager Assistant at Holiday Inn Hotel in Moscow (2016) where I was double promoted to the position of Catering Sales Manager by the end of 2017. I realized at some point, that I gained valuable experience of the hospitality industry from different perspectives and I was interested to move forward and put all my knowledge and experience into something new.
In the beginning of 2018, I was invited to participate in the development of a new hospitality project – construction, launch and further operation of a small hotel consisting of several independent studios in the center of Moscow. By that time, I already had an experience of sales and customer service in this industry, but had never dealt with any construction work or creation of new properties. Anyway, I considered the project as an interesting challenge, promising new valuable experience, so I accepted the offer without any hesitation.
Firstly, we were planning to finish the project in three months by the middle of July 2018. However, we had to change several teams of contractors at different stages of constructions works because the quality of services wasn’t satisfactory, and we had to search for a new construction team to continue the work. Eventually the project was finished in six months instead, only in December 2018.
The important idea that we had at every new step of our work was the effectiveness of the whole project and our team was really concerned with it. Our key idea was to make a useless and almost destroyed property comfortable for our customers and to give a work place to the personnel.
Moreover, on the design stage we thought a lot about the effectiveness of the project as well. What is a comfortable room space? Which amenities should be available? Which basic services should be included in the price? How big should the kitchen be? All these and other questions were on our mind as we wanted to understand what creates customer value and what is not so important? We wanted to provide the best possible value for money and to be competitive in the market. For example, we were thinking if a 24-hour reception desk creates significant value for guests and if it causes the increase of the price for the customers. Finally, we decided to try operations with self check-in and check-out systems where guests do not have to wait for anybody. It turned out that in most cases our customers are happy and thankful for this opportunity, especially when they cannot arrive in time and feel uncomfortable about it. We believe that guests should not pay any extra money for this – all these small things are about effectiveness again. But at the same time, I understand that this approach may probably be applied to our market segment only.
Results and future perspectives
Looking back, I can assure that the most fascinating thing about the whole venture was the total transformation of the property, which used to be useless and almost destroyed, into a cozy, comfortable accommodation suitable both for business and leisure tourists at an affordable price.
The hotel has been operating for three months now and we’ve managed to gain an average occupancy rate of over 90% per month. We have gained a lot of positive feedback from our customers, which has proven a solid demand for this kind of service in the market. I believe the next possible step would be further extension: development of this business model and its application for another property with a bigger number of studios, attraction of new consumers, increase both of customer satisfaction and effectiveness.