The general director of the Hilton hotel in Belgrade Nicolaas Houwert Discusses the opening of the first hotel in the Hilton chain in Belgrade, exploration of our culture, what Hilton will bring to Belgrade and everything he likes in this City.
What are the biggest challenges in setting the Hilton standard at the new location, like Belgrade? (Especially considering that Hilton always has the ability to use the specificity of each city).
Like for any startup company, getting to know and understand the market, local legislation and requirements of doing business in a new location are part of the learning experience. Especially for a first in-country hotel opening in Serbia, Hilton is actively working with and learning from local suppliers to reflect the domestic offering and preferences of the Serbian region. Although the Hilton standardsremain an essential part of the guest experience, a regional approach to the culinary experience result in a more authentic local flavor.
What are the benefits that Hilton will be able to provide to the guests coming to Belgrade, whether they are business or leisure travelers?
Hilton Belgrade offers many advantages to both business and leisure travelers. Due to ourexcellent location in the heart of Belgrade, in proximity of the National Assembly, numerous embassies and international organizations, we anticipate to welcome both individuals and group travelers. We cater to our business guests by offering 11 meeting rooms, with natural daylight and can cater up to up to 500 delegates.
Belgrade is becoming a more and more popular destination, which means we will also attract more leisure guests. By introducing theLivingWell Health Club & Spa,weoffer a unique facility, with a fitness club, treatments rooms and thermal experience, geared to support to health, fitness and vitality needs of our guests.
What content will the residents of Belgrade be looking forward to?
We offer culinary diversity by serving traditional Serbian dishes in a modern way in our “Two Kings” restaurant and pan-Asian cuisine in our “SkyLounge” bar & dining with spectacular views from the rooftop terrace overlooking Belgrade.
We will also offer an urban garden “Oasis” adjacent to our “Tsar Dusan Ballroom” which will, weather permitting, be the newest venue for weddings and other social events.
You have hotel experience in Europe, but also in the United States. What distinguishes these markets from your point of view? Andwhat do you think Serbia, as the country which is “the country in transition”, will be specific for?
International hotels have developed over the past years, from standardized look-and-feel hotels to beautifully designed state-of-the-art flagship properties. I am very proud that Hilton Worldwide is now entering Belgrade with an example of what a modern hotel should be representing. By combining architecture & design with the latest technology, we aim to lead the market into a new era of hospitality in Serbia.
The Hilton chain is known for the so-called “permanent residents”, which spend most of the year on business trips and stay in your hotels in different parts of the world. What is the most important to these guests? In what ways do you meet their needs?
Hilton Honors is our award-winning loyalty program allowing guests to earn Honors Points for staying at hotels and resorts within the Hilton Portfolio. These points can be redeemed for free roomnights in any of our hotels and resorts. Our most frequent guests receive a “Diamond” membership status and receive complimentary upgrades (upon availability) to the Executive Floor with access to the Executive Lounge. We know these travelers like our hotels, as they feel recognized in our hotels and by keeping track of personal preferences and billing details. We strive to create a “home away from home” feeling for all our guests.
You started living in Belgrade. What are your first impressions?
I love Belgrade and the Serbian people are very hospitable. I really like the dining scene in “BetonHala” and enjoy spending time with my family in Kosutnjak and Ada Lake on weekends. Although Belgrade is a large city, I quickly felt at home due to the warmth of the people and the fact that everyone speaksEnglish well and makes us feel welcome.
What do you consider the greatest tourist potential of Belgrade?
Belgrade has great potential for business tourism. Now that I live here, I can talk with colleagues from Hilton or other hotels who say that the city is very safe and that there are many interesting things to explore. When we consider the Nikola Tesla Airport, which has an increasing number of passengers every year, and I do not want to be modest, I am sure that Hilton Belgrade will bring new business tourists to the city because there is a shortage of accommodation capacities in Belgrade. I think that when Hilton opens its doors, there will be space for developing some other segments of business and economic change, so I am really optimistic when it comes to all this.
By: Miljana Nešković