“It’s a beautiful hotel, a stunning hotel, lots of natural daylight, high quality products and materials (which make a difference) but of course backed up by hopefully the best service in Tirana,” General Manager of Hilton Garden Inn, the first Hilton branded hotel in Albania, Michael Walker told FOLLOW BUSINESS ALBANIA, just a few days before its opening.
Hilton Garden Inn Hotel will be soon inaugurated. How do you feel?
“I feel very proud. It’s the first Hilton branded hotel in Albania. It doesn’t happen twice. It’s the first of its kind, a first in country so as a General Manager, a Hotelier, it fills me with immense pride. It’s a great opportunity, I was very grateful for the opportunity to take up this role. I feel it’s a great thing for Albania, clearly there is great potential for Albania generally in terms of it’s economy, but tourism specifically I feel has clearly big potential for Albania and I think big international hotel brands can help take the hospitality industry to a new level here in Albania. It will help do great things for the Country, great things for tourists, great things for business and leisure travelers, which makes Albania more attractive as a destination to visit, which can only bring better things to the economy. Ultimately if the level of Hotel accommodation in the city gets better, its better for business and also obviously its better for tourists, so its win win, I can’t think of anything negative about Hilton which is such a big company, being present and having a foothold here in Tirana. So I am proud to be part of that. There is a clear buzz about tourism at the minute and I feel it’s a bit of a turning point for the Country, I often describe Albania as one of the last hidden gems of the Mediterranean, it is a beautiful country with lots to offer, lots of natural beauty, 300 days of sunshine, it’s a great proposition for people globally and anything we can do to help put Albania on the map I think it’s a good thing.”
Can you make a short panorama of the new Hotel? Why do you think it is going to make a difference in the Tourism sector in Albania?
“It is the first Hilton branded Hotel in Albania, with that comes the standard of Hilton in terms of service, in terms of product. Hopefully as you have seen today, it’s a fantastic product, really high specifications, really high quality, but also great value for money. The Hilton Garden Inn brand is known for that. It’s a great ‘in-between’ brand and that’s the idea with our ‘focused-service’ brands. The services are tailored to a guests needs, to a specific travelers reason for travelling, reason for staying in a hotel, and it works really well. This hotel should sit in the Albanian Hotel market all being well as a 4-star property, it is a very flexible brand, this is a very high-end version of a Hilton Garden Inn, it has as you have seen fantastic conference and event space, nearly 1200 square meters in total all on one floor, which is really unique for the market, no other hotel that I’ve seen has conference and events space to this level, its planned for events. It’s designed specifically for large business conference and events as well as social events. The technology, the facilities, everything is custom made for that purpose, so it’s a fantastic service for those needs. The Hotel is in great location, within reach of the City center and attractions but at the same time very well connected to the Airport and the new highway with the new flyover, so you can be very quickly on the Coast, I am going to Durres later today, you skip a lot of the City Centre traffic and you can get straight out to the Coast very quickly, or straight to the airport very quickly, and a lot of business on the highway, it’s very well connected to those, but at the same time you can still access the city center very easily and very quickly within 5-10 minutes, you can be in the Centre where all the central attractions are for tourists and certain points of interest for business travelers. As well as the brand being an ‘in-between’ brand, in terms of the Hotel market, the location is the same. It’s a really great location in that respect.”
What do you feel is the most important asset of this Hotel in your view?
“Straightaway for me it is the Team. A hotel is just bricks and mortar without the people, that’s what brings it to life and for me that’s the most important part of a new opening, you can have a fantastic product, but until you breathe life into it with the team, it’s nothing. So that’s without a doubt, we have not yet finished the team, but already I can feel we have a great team of people, a great leadership team and I feel that is what is going to really make the difference. The biggest asset is the team and that flows through into the service, because that’s what really differentiates a Hotel, the people and the service. You know when you stay in Hotel with a team like that, it makes a difference, you feel at home, if you are business traveler it’s like a home from home. You get to know the team, they know you by name, they know a little about you outside the Hotel and that makes a difference. For leisure travelers coming on Holiday, that service can really make a difference to their Holiday and if you don’t get that right it can of course do the opposite. We want to get that right.”
What makes the Hotel exceptional?
“I would say the same. The service. That personal touch where the team know exactly what you need before you even know you need it. They pick up on signals, they get to know you as a guest, they know what you want, when you want it, and they are offering it to you as a guest before you even know you want it. That’s what it’s all about, it’s all about exceptional service. At the same time I genuinely believe we have a great product to back that up, beautiful rooms, stunning public areas (you have seen some of the artwork and the design features). It’s a beautiful hotel, a stunning hotel, lots of natural daylight, high quality products and materials (which make a difference) but of course backed up by hopefully the best service in Tirana.”