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In Search of Hotel Excellence: Hotel Berlin, Berlin
By Larry Mogelonsky
A trip to Berlin earlier this year saw me stay at Hotel Berlin, Berlin (no this is not a typographical error, the property's name is ‘Hotel Berlin, Berlin' located in Berlin). And while I have been to Germany many times before, this was my first trip to the capital city.
As a relatively frequent traveler to Europe (typically three to four times per year), my travels have generally taken me to London, Paris or, when on holidays, to more Mediterranean destinations. Berlin, somehow, never appeared on my radar. So, before discussing the property, let me give you a brief overview of the city.
If you are a baby boomer, perhaps your thoughts of Berlin are to President Kennedy and the Berlin Airlift. Or, if you're younger your memory might move to the scenes of the wall being dismantled, remarkably now some 20 years ago. Neither of these images are appropriate.
Berlin is alive, rejuvenated and clearly bucking the malaise experienced by many other Mediterranean and North American cities did feeling the ripples of recession economics. The architecture is a mixture of refurbished and ultramodern. The Tiergarten in the center of the city rivals Manhattan's Central Park and the traffic is nowhere near as bad as London, Paris or other capital cities.
My daughter studied fine art in London, and had previously captivated me with the stories of the contemporary art movement taking over Berlin. The East Berlin suburbs apparently have very cheap rent for artists who typically need big open spaces. When visiting, I browsed numerous private art galleries, and the museums and public galleries were equally impressive.
On a Sunday afternoon, it seemed as if the entire world was out on their bicycles or walking with kids in strollers. And the shops were crowded with buyers, not just gawkers. The food was excellent; the wines unique and, of course, the beer exceeded all expectation. As you can tell, I'm quite enthusiastic about my trip.
Hotel Berlin, Berlin is located in the western side of the downtown core, just south of Tiergarten and a block away from Potsdamer Platz, a bustling commercial street. This location makes it well suited for both leisure and business. During my four-night stay which encompassed a weekend, the guest mix was about equal. It was indeed refreshing to see conventional visitors intermingled with backpackers, tour groups and FITs, all seemingly content with their stay.
The property's 700 rooms are laid out in a five-story hollow square pattern with a center corridor spine breaking the square in two. Meeting rooms on the main floor are creatively identified through geographic city names, clustered into areas defined as continents. Break out rooms are identified with island names and located throughout the property. This unique approach creates a positive atmosphere amongst business customers and helps sort out what would otherwise be pandemonium.
Our meeting was in the Washington Room. One minor and unusual complaint: the rooms had so much sunlight that it partially drowned out visuals on my PowerPoint presentation. Compare that to most environments we see in hotels these days, where meeting rooms tend to be so drab and caked in artificial fluorescence that the audience is half asleep before the presentation even begins. No worries here - the whole world is going tablet anyway! Last of all, free WiFi with excellent bandwidth throughout the property keeps everyone in touch with their office and loved ones.
I had a luxury suite, which had several features that were both quite unique and impressive. Setting this aside, I had an opportunity to inspect some of the core-style guest rooms. The smallest room, which might be considered a ‘petit', was a model of efficiency and offered property management the ability to deliver a competitive market price point. As the rooms increased in size, so too did the bed size, number of chairs and added furnishings. All rooms utilized modern graphics on their walls, themed with other property elements, to create a high degree of both consistency and memorability.
Food and beverage revolved around the restaurant named Julius. Daily buffet breakfasts are included with your stay, and were in keeping with the tradition of providing a multitude of items to allow for different selections daily. The restaurant seems to expand somewhat caterpillar-like, as additional linear sections are added on as necessary to meet seating requirements. We enjoyed one light lunch in the restaurant, which was efficient, tasty and well-prepared. Our welcome night dinner was sensational, with various white wines demonstrating the efficacy and craftsmanship of local winemakers.
I asked the property's managing director, Cornelia Kausch, to describe some of the challenges she's facing with the business and her approach to maintaining the property's success. "Like our namesake city, Hotel Berlin, Berlin reflects the new values of responsive accommodations. Be efficient, with a look to our past, but also with a keen eye to the technologically-enhanced future," she said. "Our growth will come from the management of our channel mix and further development of our own brand.com business, as we continue to evolve the characteristics that differentiate us."
When asked about specific business drivers, Ms. Kausch responded, "Our FIT business will continue to be driven by the buoyant local tourism marketplace. Our MICE programs respect the need for productive, cost-efficient meetings, which are well-served by our location, layout, critical mass, venue style, value-driven price points and commitment to this sector."
After my brief stay in Hotel Berlin, Berlin, I am convinced that Ms Kausch and her team are on the right track to deliver on her business goals. And for those that haven't been, I'd definitely recommend that you check out Germany's capital city!
About Larry Mogelonsky
Larry Mogelonsky (email@example.com) is the president and founder of LMA Communications Inc. (www.lma.ca), an award-winning, full service communications agency focused on the hospitality industry (est. 1991). Larry is also the developer of Inn at a Glance hospitality software. As a recognized expert in marketing services, his experience encompasses Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, as well as numerous independent properties throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Larry is a registered professional engineer, and received his MBA from McMaster University.
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