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Leonardo alters the picture

Anna Pakulniewicz 05 September 2017

Anna Pakulniewicz

Journalist

+48 22 356 25 07
anna@eurobuildcee.com

Ania covers the Baltic states’ real estate markets, architecture and urban planning in Warsaw as well as interior design. She is also the co-founder of Eurobuild TV. Among others, she has been employed by TVN CNBC, PAP Insider, WBJ (The Observer), Poland Monthly and IMM. She graduated from the Warsaw School of Economics, majoring in international relations. She has also completed postgraduate studies in macroeconomic analysis. In addition to this, she studied Lithuanian philology

Leonardo alters the picture
Paulina Kołodziejczyk, general director, Leonardo Royal Hotel Warsaw

Anna Pakulniewicz, ‘Eurobuild Central & Eastern Europe’: The JM Hotel in Warsaw has been acquired by Leonardo Hotels to become the first hotel of the chain in Poland. What is your development strategy for Poland and the region?

Paulina Kołodziejczyk, general director, Leonardo Royal Hotel Warsaw: The decision to enter the Polish market was really made at the last minute. Initial negotiations took place in November last year. That was when we decided to take over the JM hotel on ul. Grzybowska. The first quarter of operations was very fruitful. I expected this because I know the Polish market, so I was not afraid of taking up the challenge. However, the Leonardo group has been positively surprised. We have enjoyed much better results compared to other hotels in Central Europe – such as in Berlin, or Prague, where we have had the Nyx hotel for a year, and Budapest.

Have you been officially operating under the new brand? The old name is still on the entrance.

We have been present here since March 16th and the name has been officially changed to Leonardo Royal. However, we are not the leaseholder of the entire property, only of certain floors: 0–1 and 18–27. The rest of the building is office space. We have separate entrances. The entire building, which is owned by JM Invest, is called JM Tower. Thus it still bears the former name of the hotel – JM Hotel. The JM Hotel name will remain with us for four more years.

What changes will you make to the hotel?

We have started with renovations, which are currently in progress. The work is being carried out seven days a week.

Does this not bother the guests?

We close off two floors at a time. Each floor has a maximum of 19 rooms. First we are changing those features guests have complained about to the previous management: the lighting in the rooms is of low quality and distributes the light badly; the dark and oppressive wallpaper; all the textiles; curtains that were not fit for purpose; we will raise the beds by 15 cm. When it comes to the furniture, we will be adding office chairs on wheels and bar stools. We will also equip the rooms with safes, as they didn’t have these before. The bathrooms will be given a facelift – the mirrors have been replaced with models with built-in LED lighting and a magnifying mirror; additional paper holders have been introduced as well as tissue containers. There will also be Hans Grohe showers. Furthermore, we have signed a new contract for the hiring of the bed linen, with the first batch of towels and bed linen having arrived on August 1st – before this our everyday work was much more difficult. And as for the most important element: the corridors. They were dark and lit only with home lighting. Now they have new lighting and are bright, and are decorated with new wall paintings to transport us to interesting places in Warsaw.

Who are you working with for the renovation work?

With German design studio Neudahm, which the Leonardo Hotels group has been regularly cooperating with and which has designed the majority of the chain’s hotels. As far as the suppliers are concerned – these vary and depend on the quality. Some are based in Poland – when we are able to negotiate better prices and terms in a short time; as for the others, such as for the lighting and some of the textiles, these have been imported from Italy and Spain.

What about the conference section?

The conference section will be undergoing the most significant changes. The renovation of the lobby and the bar started on August 16th. We are replacing everything, including the walls and the floors, and this is despite the fact that the hotel is not old – it was opened in 2012. What we should have managed to do by September is the enhancement of the walls and cables and the addition of microphones. By January we will be able to offer additional facilities in the form of banquet and cocktail tables, laptops and projectors – all of this should be of a four-star standard. In January we will be finishing the last four floors. Our restaurant will undergo a major refurbishment and we will also open a business corner. We also want to improve the signage to the car park in cooperation with the city, which would make it easier for our guests to get to the hotel. Another important element will be the installation of a sound system in the bar and the lobby. I would like the hotel to be fitted out with this infrastructure by the end of September. The internet connection also requires improvement. We have earmarked EUR 1.2 mln for the renovation work. The renovation of the restaurant and the breakfast buffet area will use up the most of the funds. Of course, we will also be investing in the guest comfort zone after the completion of the main renovations – next year we would like to start replacing the shower cubicles, as this will not be done in the earlier renovations. There also plans to clean the façade twice a year. All the renovation work should be finished by February 10th. This is when the official opening of the hotel will take place.

When and where will your next hotel in Warsaw be opened?

This information has not been confirmed in any documentation, so I would not like to reveal the location, but negotiations over a second hotel in central Poland are in progress. In line with the company’s strategy, we are not interested in the ownership of a hotel – we will lease and manage it, but each facility is a different story, of course. At the same time we are in negotiations in Kraków, but these are rather complex and so nothing is expected to be finalised there soon.

Will this be a chain hotel or an independent one?

If you’ll forgive me, I will keep my cards close to my chest for now. I admit that the prospect of expansion in Poland has changed following our experiences in Prague, where the development dynamics are certainly lower compared to Warsaw. Thus we have taken the decision to invest more capital on the Polish market, a challenge I am personally looking forward to. The group is currently developing most rapidly in Spain and Italy as well as the UK.

How many hotels is Leonardo planning to open in Poland?

After the first year it will still be difficult to reach any firm conclusions. We are not in full operation because renovations are in progress and so some floors are not in use by guests; we are tied to the JM brand, so it is difficult to gauge the guest segment against the group’s expectations from one day to another. We are obliged to continue the majority of existing contracts, so we will be cooperating with JM’s business clients until the end of August. Of course, the end of 2017 will give us a certain picture and provide a direction for our strategy; however, 2018 will be the decisive year and it should reveal our full potential. Regardless of the results, I think that the two new hotels I mentioned will certainly be opened. I already know that the 178 rooms we now have are insufficient.

Is Leonardo planning to enter new markets?

As far as our expansion onto new markets is concerned, no other countries in this region are being considered at this time.


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