Interview with Monique Dekker, General Manager of the Park Hyatt Vienna
On a recent trip to Vienna, I had the privilege of discovering the Park Hyatt Vienna. It is a wonderful recent addition to the Park Hyatt portfolio, with a unique quality: it is the first Park Hyatt to open in a historic, refurbished building. Traditionally, Park Hyatts tend to be new constructions. Housed in a 100-year-old building that served as the former site of an Austrian bank, the Park Hyatt Vienna has learned to draw out the historic spirit of the site and incorporate it in a meaningful way into its art of welcoming today.
I invite you to discover below my interview with Monique Dekker, General Manager of the Park Hyatt Vienna, who shares her thoughts on the conversion of the building to the magnificent hotel it is today.
How do you define the art of welcoming in the Park Hyatt Vienna? Is it an Austrian art of welcoming?
The art of welcoming is very important for us here. It is the first experience the guest encounters when they enter the property. They encounter our staff: the doorman who welcomes the guest and then of course, the reception staff. They are dressed the way that any luxury hotel staff should be dressed. We don’t have uniforms here; we have employee fashion, which is very important because the staff has the opportunity to be themselves, which allows them to address guests in their own authentic way. The most important thing is that they feel comfortable where they are. Of course, the welcoming is done by bringing the guest up directly to their room and explaining all of the room features and everything that we have: all the facilities and the property, as well as some nice places to visit in the beautiful city of Vienna.
Both Vienna and Austria are very well known for their imperial history, and this is something that we include. The employees we have in all of the areas of welcoming know everything about the history of Vienna and are very well-versed in what would be nice about visiting Vienna. The property is an old bank building built in 1913-15, so it has all the imperial flair of those days. Of course, that is also evoked in the rooms.
What were the keys to success when you opened the hotel?
The property opened in 1915 and closed as a bank in 2008. We took a long time to work together with the monumental protection agency to turn it from a bank to a hotel property while using all of the items that were under monumental protection and continuing to keep the flair of the building. As a General Manager, it was exciting for me to bring life to a building that had been existing for so long and that had a beautiful, elegant décor with modern touches and filling it with life.
The exciting thing about turning it into a hotel was transforming the given areas of the bank building: the cashier’s hall turned into a restaurant, and the vault is now our swimming pool. So while using the areas that were restored to its beautiful spirit, we of course had to introduce the hotel’s operations, which was a really exciting thing to do but also works very well. Our guests really love seeing all of the exciting elements we have.
One exciting thing we did about a year after opening our hotel, we saw that there was an opportunity to add a bar to our restaurant. We had the opportunity to create a compelling story for the restaurant using the history of the bank, allowing this story to drive everything in the restaurant, whether it came to the signature cocktails or the uniforms. The story is about a young lady who was the daughter of one of the bank directors in the past. It allowed us to really bring the history of the bank into our daily life. We turned the previous bar into a Viennese coffeehouse, where we serve the sweets and pastries that Vienna is very well known for.
How do you manage your team to deliver unexpected services and to bring the best of themselves?
The motto of Hyatt in general is: “We care for people so they can be their best.” Our employees are very important. It is nice to have beautiful hardware and a beautiful building, but if you don’t have the correct team of individuals, you will not be able to deliver an experience to the guests. All of the 250 employees that we have here have been hand-picked to be able to fit the team with a focus on the authenticity that they bring—we look for that sparkle in the eyes, the fire in the belly. We seek to allow them to bring Vienna to our guests so that they can truly experience something special.
Laurent Delporte, an editor and conference speaker, is a strategic expert in the sector of hotels. A visionary, he brings his unique look on hotels in service to the decision-makers in the industry, whether to enhance the development of new projects or strategic visions.
Laurent has visited and audited over 350 hotels across the world and also participates in mystery visits to provide quality control for the world’s finest hotels.