Interview with Nikola Avram, General Manager of MK Mountain Resort, Serbia
Q: How do you personally see South East Europe’s meetings industry scene?
South East Europe, or more commonly recognized as the Balkans, is currently having a steady growth in the meetings and events industry. I personally believe that a lot of opportunities are in front of us, and that we are ready to catch our share of this market segment.
Q: What do you see as crucial marketing elements to impress meeting planners?We have the responsibility to make a great first and lasting impression. As an emerging destination, we have to make sure that we will influence the decision makers to choose the region and our hotel group, which is a leader in the MICE industry. We are committed to delivering to meeting planners authentic experiences at a good value, through high standards products and amenities in one place, perfect organization, attentive staff, technology. We can easily differentiate ourselves through our rich culture, soul, gastronomy, unlimited types of outdoor activities and entertainments. Our Kopaonik destination is matching the expectations of our leisure customers, who are seeking for new inspirations in the nature.
Q: MK Group owns and operates its hotels. What are the benefits of that for meeting planners?
As the owner and operator of our properties in several destinations, we can offer and manage a diversity of options in terms of hotel type, indoor and outdoor services. It gives us the ability to take quick and effective decisions, to be more flexible, and meet the meeting planners requirements in a fast, soft and effective way. We can act as a single point of contact to coordinate the various elements of their event.
Q: How do you stay in front of trends, whether that’s design, food and beverage, or entertainment?
The fact that we are a leader comes from that forward-thinking approach that we impose to ourselves. Always putting ourselves in question, regularly assessing the quality of our services, participating in many business conferences to get tuned, attending the trade shows to feel the new product and customers trends, listening and reacting to guest satisfaction comments. Our F&B creative manager is the owner of one of the most famous restaurant in Belgrade. He is key for driving new dining experiences, as well as our S&M director brings a wealth of international experience in having developed various hotel, resorts and dining concepts. This cooperation helps all of us to improve our products and services.
We have defined an ambitious plan to become quickly the leading hospitality management company in South East Europe.
Q: How do you make both the in-room and living room/lobby experiences great?
In the rooms, it is far easier, we care about the comfort and well-being of our guests, a perfect technology and connectivity, a warm and contemporary interior design that creates a friendly ambiance. Also, our living room area is meant to be more sophisticated and a space a share and communicate with our guests. This is where we focus our attention.
Q: Is the price associated with a sense of quality? It is known that the wealthier guests also decide on the basis of how high is the price?
Prices are always linked to quality. We pay a lot of attention to the perceived value that our guest have, as prices must deliver ever more value. Nowadays, every guest is price sensitive, and expects more value for the price they are paying. We try to offer the right balance so that our guests feel comfortable with the price they pay.
Q: What is your take on driving direct bookings and working with the online travel agencies (OTAs)?
The reputation of our brand, and our proactivity in online marketing is our key strategy to drive more direct bookings to our properties. Obviously, we also partner with some selected OTAs to complement our occupancy objectives, but we own the relationship with the client, and will continue to do so, which cannot be the case for OTAs.
Q: What are the biggest opportunities that you see for Southeast’s meeting industry?
I am confident the region, not so long ago known as Yugoslavia, is quickly recovering from the recent isolation and is showing an escalating growth in its economy.
It is in the heart of Europe, it is a safe destination that has so much to offer to meeting planners and their clients, as they are seeking for new experiences, safe places, good international connections, truly authentic experiences: the Balkan soul is very friendly, musical, a sharing culture, a vibrant population; a very good infrastructure, great hotels and resorts, unlimited natural landscapes. The list is long, there lies the opportunities for meeting professionals to embrace with confidence these emerging destinations, and try new countries such as Serbia for their next congresses and events.
Q: What keeps you up at night with regard to the future of hospitality?
Passion, an ever-changing world, always needs to keep up with latest technologies, design trends, and customers’ expectations.
Q: Can you tell us more about the future MK Group investments in our region?
We have defined an ambitious plan to become quickly the leading hospitality management company in South East Europe. We have several investment and development projects in progress in Novi Sad, Serbia, Slovenia and Montenegro. We are looking at every investment opportunities which are making sense to our strategic move, whether as business hotels or resorts.
The fact that we are a leader comes from that forward-thinking approach that we impose to ourselves. Always putting ourselves in question, regularly assessing the quality of our services.
One-on-One with Nikola Avram
Q: What inspired you to decide your career to the hotel industry?
I grew up in a family operating restaurants and residential business, so I naturally got the virus…
Q: The best advice you have received?
Stay committed and focused to my goals, but can agility and flexibility in my approach.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world for a month, where would you go and why?
Japan, I find this country and its way of life fascinating.
Q: What is your favourite place in South East Europe?
Meet the MK Moutain Resort representatives at Conventa trade show. MK Mountain Resort is also be the sponsor of Coffee Break area. Warmly invited for a cup of delicious coffee!