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From Russia with growth - INSIDER PLUS

From Russia with growth

LOOKING AHEAD IN ST PETERSBURG 

Corinthia Hotel St Petersburg is concluding an exciting period of development, but there’s always more to do, writes General Manager Jonathan Pace

I arrived at Corinthia Hotel St Petersburg from Prague in December 2015. It was a cold and dark winter’s evening when I stepped from the taxi on to Nevsky Prospect, and I still remember the feeling of amazement when I first saw the lobby. It was one of the most beautiful and impressive I had ever seen, particularly given its location on St Petersburg’s historic thoroughfare. In those first few moments, those first steps, I became passionate about this extraordinary property, and I vowed to do everything possible to sustain and build its position as one of Russia’s great hotels.

The first quarter of 2018 is a fitting time to reflect on where we are, and what’s next. For a start, 2018 will see the final leg of a long marathon of improvements which began two years ago. My motto has always been that being good is good, but being the best is better. That is the thought I start with each day. Supported by a great team, together we embarked on journey to bring the hotel up to a new level. Our aim? A new position in the Russian hotel market, better financial performance, and new possibilities for a long and stable future in what is highly competitive hospitality environment.

Corinthia Hotel St Petersburg opened its doors 15 years ago. Since then, it has experienced a period of constant improvement and investment, both in room design and technical setup. The local accolades began back in 2003 on the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg, when the city authorities awarded Corinthia a prestigious award as “Patrons of restoration, with gratitude from St Petersburg”. This was an early sign of recognition of the sensitive reconstruction works undertaken on the historic buildings that housed the property.

Corinthia Hotel St Petersburg’s famous lobby will undergo extensive renovation this summer

As well as this original development and restoration, six years later, we embarked on a huge renovation and expansion programme which transformed vital areas of the hotel – including a new wing of executive guest rooms. That far-reaching programme has led to more recent improvements: the upgrading of Wi-Fi infrastructure specifically to meet business guests’ needs, and in April 2017 we opened 120 newly-designed deluxe rooms. Guests and travel professionals alike expressed great satisfaction with these new rooms,  and I’m proud of the fact that these considerable works were completed while the hotel maintained normal operations. Our accounts in 2016 told a tale of record performance, and did so again in 2017. In light of the major renovations that have occurred during both years, outperforming on previous years makes me immensely proud.

“My motto has always been that being good is good, but being the best is better.”

But the work continues. By this summer we are expecting to have an additional 162 newly-designed rooms, and a re-designed lobby. Despite my affection for the lobby I first encountered two years ago, yes, all things must change. The plan is the new lobby will become St Petersburg’s premier meeting point. 2018 is of course the year of that great global spectacle – the FIFA World Cup, which kicks off in Russia on June 14. Having already been recognised as an official FIFA-designated hotel for the Confederations Cup in 2017, (when we had the pleasure to host the national football teams of Cameroon, Chile, Portugal and Russia), we have been similarly honoured for the World Cup. This time our guests are likely to include the soccer superstars of Brazil, Iran, Nigeria and Russia.

Knowing more about who are guests are – whether they be footballers, businessmen and business-women, or guests simply wanting great service and the highest standards, I believe is vital for the future. The more we know about our customers, the more we understand their needs, and the more we can deliver a service beyond their expectations. That is why, in addition to physical improvements, we have embarked on an ambitious strategy to enhance our guest profiling. This will help tailor our communications to guests’ diverse needs, and engage with them in exciting new ways.

We have highly ambitious plans. My vision for Corinthia St Petersburg is for it become a market leader in Russia, and already we have begun to deserve such a title. At the Russian Hospitality Awards in 2016 – the most prestigious awards of their kind – Corinthia Hotel St Petersburg was recognised as the Best MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) hotel in Russia. To our great delight, our hotel was chosen as Russia’s Leading Conference Hotel by the World Travel Awards for two consecutive years in 2016 and 2017, with last year marking the fifth occasion the hotel has won the award. As for the future, our destiny is in our hands. In 2018 we have big plans for enhancing our Food & Beverage offerings, with the F&B team working overtime to push the boundaries further. Watch this space!