RUPERT SIMONER, CEO of VIENNA HOUSE
Vienna House’s Chief Executive Officer Rupert Simoner, talks to Can Faik on what Vienna House have planned for the next few years…
Vienna House is Austria’s largest hotel group, which owns and manages individual city and resort hotels across Europe. The hotels, each an example of Vienna Houses’ distinctive brand, are connected by shared values and one aim: to inspire guests. Vienna House creates design-led hotels that present timeless European traditions with a contemporary edge. The two hotel lines Vienna House and Vienna House Easy combine functionality and innovation, with Vienna House Easy a line of smart-casual hotels adopting an easy-going style.
What was your background in hospitality prior to working for Vienna House?
My last position before I started at Vienna House was Senior Vice President at Kempinski Hotels. In this position I was in charge of strategic development for all hotels in Europe, Russia and the CIS nations. Additionally, I was responsible of the group’s flagship hotel, the Grand Hotel des Bains in St. Moritz as managing director.
What does your current position involve?
Now as CEO of Vienna House since the 1 September 2014 I am responsible for the focus and future as well as the company’s development.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
My career has taken me across four continents, always with the aim of ‘creating something unique’. With Vienna House, I have the opportunity to completely build up a new hotel company. This is especially attractive due to the flexibility and size of the Austrian hotel group. The whole process is extremely interesting and I really enjoy each day –some new positive developments in the hotels, the hardware, but especially in the attitude of our employees. Our leitmotif is to direct all our actions on the guests’ view.
What are the complexities of meeting the demands of shareholders, fulfilling the growth of your management team and delivering the brand’s values to the guests?
This is easy, we are a CEO driven company and our shareholders are completely aligned with my company vision.
What will Vienna House have to do to stay one step ahead of its competition, especially in the boutique hospitality sector?
There are many chic and cool boutique hotels – the competition is continuously growing. We are clearly not another lifestyle brand. Lifestyle comes and goes. For us the answer to the question who we are and why we do what we do was crucial and the only way to define ourselves and to differentiate. We will not be part of a brand supermarket, we are not a label whole seller. The positioning of Vienna House represents our fundamental values, which do not succumb to the spirit of the times.
Further, we strongly believe that nothing is more refined than the simple things in life and we want to do one thing above all: inspire our guests. This is the inspiration for how we see ourselves and how we act. It is about being a great host – we want to delight our guests and colleagues to be our best ambassadors. And we create moments of joy. Travel is about new experiences and discoveries; it is what we call the ‘Vienna House Wanderlust’. This is our brand promise. This is what makes the difference.
What are Vienna House’s Unique Selling Points?
We believe in the power to be meaningful and in the beauty of simplicity. Each and every action at Vienna House is consistent with the guest perspective. From this we also derive our USPs , which are related to our values ‘down-to-earth’ – we keep it easy, ‘exploration’ – we never stop exploring, ‘refinement’ – we do it with taste, “enjoyment” – we have a good time. We want to be game changers which create emotional brand promises to our guests and partners. This results in the brand promise of endless exploration.
What is next for the Vienna House as in new openings?
The expansion is moving on – at the end of September we opened our second Hotel in Berlin, the Vienna House Easy Berlin. At the beginning of January, we opened the Vienna House QF Dresden. and recently we announced the next hotel construction at Kronberg im Taunus, which is planned to open its doors in 2019. Additionally to that, there are many new projects in the pipeline and until 2020 we will grow up to 50 hotels.
Is Vienna House looking at any countries in particular for new openings?
We are looking for interesting properties in Europe – from Stockholm to Rome, from Lisbon to Moscow. Outside Europe we are interested in hotels on markets, which have a strong European heritage or source. If the product fits to our brand, we are happy to increase the Vienna House family.
What kind of equity will be available to finance all of these new builds and acquisitions?
The hotel projects differ between managing, fixed lease or hybrid lease contracts.
What are the personality traits that define a successful and happy hotel proprietor, in your opinion?
Good communicator, be flexible and likely to adapt to new and challenging situations, somebody who isn’t afraid of change but likes new adventures, and fun to work with international team, loves to inspire people (guests and employees).
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel design?
No particular trends in hotel design. The urban, industrial style can be seen a lot in the last years. Now the vintage trend with grandmother’s furniture passes through. But what can be seen through all design areas are better functionalities – free of charge high-speed WIFI, self or online check-in, no minibar but a small shop in the lobby or a cool hotel/lobby bar also frequented from external guests.
How important do you feel hotel design has become when launching a new hotel?
The design but also functionality plays a very important role when launching a new hotel. This is one reason why we employed interior designers at our corporate office who plans new constructions or renovations always together with our project/operations department. Further we offer features in an aesthetic way like pillow stations (at no charge), cool co-working spaces, or open and bakery-style like breakfast areas.
What would you say are the three best places you’ve ever stayed?
Among the best places I ever stayed is definitely a beach in Belize, on deck of an outrigger boat in Polynesia and a warm shelter after weeks of climbing in Nepal.
Where currently ranks highest on your travel wish-list?
On the very top is the Ruwenzori Mountains in Uganda.
Let’s finish with the issue of personal and work-life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
I do regular sports and I love to let the mind escape when riding my motorbike and when I am diving.