Aoyama: “Once Hyatt Regency Tirana is Open, We’d Do Some Meaningful Work Outside the Capital”

by Rudina Hoxha
Editor in chief of Follow Business Albania

Takuya Aoyama, Vice President Acquisitions & Development Russia & CIS and Central Eastern Europe Hyatt Hotels Corporations, sat with Follow Business Albania to share his thoughts on Albania where Hyatt will be present soon.

From the inception of first Hyatt Hotel in 1957 to date when the latest management agreement happened in Albania, what can you say about the development of this prestigious brand and its expansion plans in Albania and in Balkans?

Hyatt opened its first hotel in the region in 1990, with Hyatt Regency Belgrade, which makes us one of the most experienced international hotel management companies in the Balkans. This was followed by properties in Thessaloniki and Istanbul. More recently, we opened Grand Hyatt Athens last year and we expect to open Hyatt Regency Sofia later this year. Our growth in the region has been steady if not very fast.

While hotel development is inevitably opportunity driven, we put lots of thoughts into when and to which market we take our brands and with whom we work. It is important that we grow in a meaningful way so that we can best serve our guests, owners, associates and other stakeholders. We are interested in expanding our presence in the region, particularly in those destinations where Hyatt is not yet present, but we would pursue our growth carefully.

With regards to Albania, once Hyatt Regency Tirana is open, we’d then be in a position to do some meaningful work outside the capital. Here again, we need to always be mindful of the impact we (and the industry as a whole) have on the local community and we have to strive to do the right thing. Our growth in Albania should not only offer our guests new destinations, but should open up opportunities for people here – some would come to work as our associates or some would grow their businesses as suppliers.

Out of your many brands, which of them you think can fit Albanian coastal areas?

Deciding which brand is most suited to a specific area depends on many factors such as location, size, positioning etc., of each project. Having said this, our full-service brand, Hyatt Regency, would work well for coastal resorts in Albania.

Speaking of the coast. The focus of policymakers and local stakeholders with regards to the coastal tourism should be conservation and sustainability, and not so much promotion. People should study the experience of Greece, Turkey, Croatia and Montenegro and learn from their mistakes and best practices. On the other hand, both public and private sectors should work together, and work hard, to promote and develop inland tourism – in my opinion this should be the most important strategic priority for Albanian tourism.

Is Hyatt ready to concede franchise operations or vacation ownership in Albania, Balkans or further?

We’d franchise when and where we see the right opportunities which make sense under specific circumstances. As a general statement, however, we’d be very careful about franchising. Big part of Hyatt’s reputation rests on the superior quality of our service and consistency of our properties, and we have to be very selective when we decide to let third parties operate hotels for us.

Vacation ownership requires business model and infrastructure set up which is significantly different from those of the hotel operation, and it would be difficult to just transplant the idea to destinations where the infrastructure is missing. Just check where most vacation ownership resorts operate – they are in the Americas where the industry has extensive knowledge and experience and where consumers understand the product.

Is Hyatt corporation willing to co-own any property in Albania?

Probably not in the foreseeable future – but “never say never.” In case you are not aware Hyatt is the first ever international hotel management company which actually invested in a property in Baku, Azerbaijan, back in late ‘90’s!

Since you are keen on Central Eastern Europe, which is your next hot spot for Hyatt after Albania?

The entire CEE is very interesting, as the region has some of the fast growing economies in Europe and hotel markets there are showing robust growth. Developing Hyatt’s footprint in Warsaw, Prague, Bucharest and Zagreb is a high priority for us. We’re also looking for opportunities to bring Hyatt’s brands to resort destinations in the region, such as the Adriatic or Ionian coasts or to the Mediterranean islands.

Another, and no less important, priority is to bring more associates from CEE, the Balkans, and Russia/CIS into Hyatt. To illustrate the point, we have some Serbian nationals in leadership positions within the company and this has a lot to do with the fact that Hyatt has been operating in Belgrade for a long time – it would be exciting to see this happen with Albanians, Greeks, Russians, Latvians, Poles, Romanians etc.

(Published by Follow Business Albania – April 2019 – pages 18-19)