Christoph Voegeli – General Manager of Radisson Blu Water Garden Dhaka.

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A German national, Christoph Voegeli brings to Radisson more than 20 years of hospitality experience, including nine years as the General Manager of leading hotels in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. He has an in-depth knowledge of the industry. In addition to being responsible for the full spectrum of hotel operations, he is also in charge of hotel development and pre-opening initiatives.

What are some of the filtering processes that the employers go through before they are taken abroad and what are the attributes you look for?
We have a couple of layers in the recruitment process. Applicants are first screened if they are fit to the profile. In the second screening we go deeper, the leader of the specific departments interview and shortlist the applicants. Then the applicants go through a written test to cross check the required skills. And the final stage would be for the management level to meet me for an interview. For supervisor levels or lower levels, they will still come to my office but that will just be a touch base to have an idea of their personality and attitude. I like to see all the colleagues personally, but because of the number and the schedule, the management interviews are allotted for half an hour and the levels below take about five minutes, just to see how they respond or present themselves.

Do you feel there is a dearth in talent/lack in skills in the employees you find here? What is your employee retention like?
Yes on an international scale, it is not as good as other places. That is because it is partially linked to the education system of the country and due to the companies on which level they operate. Still, there are a lot of educated people with good attitude. The skills that they have or present to us are commendable. However, if there competency is slightly lower they can first enter to train under our guidance and then build their skills accordingly.

What is your opinion about the current hospitality industry in Bangladesh? Do you think the local tourism industry is booming?
I think it’s extremely exciting. With overall developments, new businesses, investments, and new companies coming up, ir does affect the hotel business here. We predominantly talk about business travelers and corporate travelers, but apart from that another very important area which is coming up for Bangladeshis is the leisure & tourism sectors. I have read newspaper articles about big projects opening up in Cox’s bazaar particularly in Inani beach boasting a huge area integrated with resorts, 3-4 star hotel facilities, amusement park and a cricket stadium. Therefore, I expect a huge transformation in the next couple of years.

More and more hotels are opening recently. How is Radisson Blu coping with the increased competition and what are the challenges being faced?
I would like to believe that it is more of an enhancement and growth rather than competition. Certainly, it will get more competitive if the market is stable and more hotel rooms are allocated throughout the city. Then we have to cut the cakes in more slices! But as for now, the business is growing with more business travelers, new projects and new power plants etc. Demands for hotels are increasing so the market is actually aligned. From that perspective, it won’t be very aggressive from our side.

Do you feel that in recent years consumer behavior in the hospitality industry has changed? If so, then how?
It’s actually a continuous never ending process. New tools, new tech, new gadgets, electronics and all these various factors impact hotel businesses. When I started my hotel career 22 years ago, there was no mention of Wi-Fi, but now it is the complete opposite, the first thing that the customers want now is to log on as soon as they step into the hotel. Now its more flexible as hotels are shifting to automated check-ins just the way we book air tickets online. In the very near future, the customers will be able to book a room through an application via their smart phones. You put in your details through the phone, come to the hotel later and get into your room. That technology is going to be introduced in Radisson pretty soon.

In your opinion, how does Radisson Blu stand out among its five star peers?
I would like to rank this hotel as one of the leading hotels in Bangladesh and beyond Bangladesh, but when we evaluate or give opinions about a hotel, we have to see the whole picture. We have our strong points but that doesn’t necessarily mean we do not have weaknesses. To minimize those weaknesses we exceptionally harder than the other hotels. Also, we have a strong dedicated team who work diligenty to keep the hotel in top notch condition.

Recently Radisson Blu has opened an art gallery. Could you tell us more about it?
We have collaborated with Dhaka art centre last year, as they are a very positive and established institution. They are renowned for having revered artists and also give new artists a platform, to share their work. Here, we can introduce local artists to international travelers so that the international travelers can get a taste of the country’s culture. We had the third exhibition and the latest one started in March, where we only featured female artists and we had a grand opening for that event.

Do you think the market has become saturated with too many luxury hotels?
No,rather its just the opposite. The inventory is smaller and still there is space to add on, as I’ve mentioned in the previous question, the industry is in its growing phase. But, lately I agree we have seen smaller sized hotels, international or local brands which are opening up in large numbers and I believe they can be improved. Also there is more space for new hotels to enter so it isn’t a problem.

 

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