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Ritz-Carlton preserves high occupancy rates

HDN | 8/4/2009 12:00:00 AM |

Ritz-Carlton Istanbul has won a Hewitt Award for the second year in a row, being named Central and Eastern Europe's best employer in the small- to medium-sized company category. Raul Salcido, the hotel’s general manager for the past three years, says overall guest satisfaction really depends on a high level of employee engagement and satisfaction

GÜL DEMIR / NIKI GAMM

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

The tall silhouette of the Ritz-Carlton, one of the landmark buildings in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, stands out even from the air as visitors approach the city on planes landing at the Atatürk Airport.

With prominence like that, you might think a top hotel would rest on its laurels, but the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul keeps improving, winning a Hewitt Award for the second year in a row. The hotel has been named Central and Eastern Europe’s best employer in the small- to medium-sized company category according to the Best Employer 2008/2009 survey, conducted by Hewitt Associates.

“I feel very proud of this accomplishment; it represents both a challenge and a great responsibility to maintain and continue finding ways to create the best work environment,” Raul Salcido, the hotel’s general manager, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in an interview.

The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul currently employs a staff of 195 people. “The award demonstrates that it is all about people, respect and loyalty,” Salcido said. “We nurture and maximize talents; we create long-term careers for the future. This builds strong loyalty and commitment and many satisfied guests.”

Overall guest satisfaction, in essence, depends on a high level of employee engagement and satisfaction, Salcido said. “They are the ones who shape the guest experience and create guests for a lifetime, which in our case is the key to long-term sustainable success.”

[HH] Three years in Turkey:

Salcido has been in Turkey for the past three years. “The work ethic and commitment from the people I work with is amazing,” he said. “The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul is considered one of the company’s leading hotels as the company’s philosophy on the genuine care and comfort of our guests truly matches with Turkish hospitality.”

To create the kind of workforce that leads to happy guests, Salcido said the company works hard to help “fulfill the individual aspirations” of its staff, offering “an array of benefits designed to meet the needs of today’s changing workforce,” including promotion and transfer opportunities and programs focused on career development, employee recognition and educational assistance.

Originally from Mexico, Salcido has worked for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company since 1993. “I appreciate the organization’s consistency in its founding principles and values,” he said. “We commit to our guests to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for them and the company positions its staff as the most important asset in the realization of our service commitment to our guests. The principles applied of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment allow the company to nurture and capitalize on its talent, which works to the benefit of each individual as well as the company.”

Ritz-Carlton manages 73 hotels in 24 countries. “Every employee feels valued, motivated and well prepared to support the goals of the company,” he added.

Those goals include social and environmental responsibility, which the company seeks to contribute to through its “Community Footprints” program. This, Salcido said, inspires employees to “positively impact the lives of others as well.”

The program creates a framework in which all Ritz-Carlton hotels can “become positive, supportive members of their community [that are] sensitive to the environment.

[HH] Tourism in Turkey:

The global economic crisis has also affected Ritz-Carlton and tourism in Turkey negatively. But Salcido and his team have been able to maintain high occupancy rates by bringing customers in from alternative markets to replace those who are not currently traveling. While corporate groups’ share of overall occupancy declined, individual travel showed a major increase, especially among people from the Middle East, the Far East and Latin America.

Calling himself an optimist, Salcido said he anticipates recovery in the global economy as early as next year. “I believe that by then Istanbul will continue to be one of the most desired destinations in the world, both for business and leisure,” he said, recalling many of the campaigns promoting Istanbul as the 2010 European Capital of Culture, the city’s new and expanded convention centers, new flights to Istanbul and new destinations served by Turkish Airlines. “These all contribute to Istanbul’s position as the center of attention and ensure it attracts both business and leisure guests from current and new markets.”

Salcido said the European Capital designation offers a unique marketing opportunity to further promote Istanbul as a world-class destination. “The tourism industry needs to be ready to take full advantage of it and make a solid impact.”

To that end, the Ritz-Carlton Istanbul, which opened in 2001, has been engaged in major renovation work since the beginning of this year. The first phase of the 3.5 million-Turkish Lira project covers the guest rooms and suites. Public areas, including restaurants, bars and meeting and conference rooms, will be spruced up during the second phase. Depending on occupancy and business flow, the renovation is expected to finish by the second half of 2010.

The hotel’s “Meeting Within Reach” package offers continental breakfasts, a general-session meeting room, Internet access in the meeting room, a 20 percent discount on audiovisual needs and selected suite upgrades for meetings including 10 or more room nights that are booked by Sept. 30 with arrival prior to Dec. 30, 2009.

On the culinary front, Salcido said, “We are excited as we will be launching the new menu of our main restaurant, Cintemani, crafted by chef de cuisine Ali Ronay right after Ramadan.” Ronay joined the staff in May and has worked at Michelin-starred restaurants such as the Hotels Arts in Barcelona and Ritz-Carlton in Wolfsburg, Germany.

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