Situated on over 7 acres of scenic greenery in the heart of Dhaka City, Radisson Blu truly offers a refreshing experience from the hustle and bustle of city life. But it isn’t just its beauty that has helped Radisson Blu stay relevant. Their longevity can be attributed to a robust management team who work tirelessly to ensure that things there can always stay fresh and interesting. The past few months have been especially prosperous and successful for Radisson Blu as it has seen them claiming a plethora of accolades all thanks to the excellence of their General Manager, Alexander Haeusler. The Austrian has indeed breathed new life into Bangladesh’s hospitality sector and we got the opportunity to meet him and gain insight on his plans on taking it to the next level.

What inspired you to become a hotelier? Please give us a brief account of your journey so far.

I love to experience different countries, their culture and people. I have always had an affinity for it. So, that’s why from a very young age, I wanted to get into a profession that would allow me to do precisely that. Despite Austria being one of the most beautiful places on earth, I wanted to get out and see what the world had in store for me. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and 25 years in the hospitality sector has certainly helped me when it comes to that. I have been lucky enough to manage luxury and upscale brands in Central and Southern Europe, Middle East and Asia. I am still relatively new to South Asia with Bangladesh being my first assignment and so far it is turning out to be one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. Never in my life have I received such a warm welcome and never have I seen people with such amazing hospitality. I have been able to implement a lot of positive changes so far and successfully carry over my knack for earning awards and international accreditations. Under my leadership, Radisson Blu has already earned five international awards in 2019 including Bangladesh’s Best General Manager (Hospitality) at ‘14th Employer Branding Awards’ organized by CMO Global, Executive Certification from Safe Hotels Alliance making us the safest property in BD, Best Regional European Cuisine for Sublime from World Luxury Restaurant Awards, Leading Airport Hotel’ and ‘Leading Meeting & Conference Hotel/Resort’ from South Asian Travel Awards and also an award at the upcoming World Luxury Hotel Awards. These awards have certainly provided a massive boost to my aim of retaining Radisson’s position as one of the best hotels in Bangladesh. We always want to be an avenue that allows guests to create countless memories and also a leading choice for individuals looking to build a stable and rewarding career.

The hospitality sector is one that changes with every passing moment. What steps do you take to ensure that Radisson Dhaka is always relevant in the scene?

Our key philosophy is to provide guests with memorable moments in each passing moments of each passing day and we have implemented new brand standards to live up to it. We always try to anticipate the needs of our guests and not only meet them but also surpass any and every expectation. In order to do so, we have devised a Guest Preference Program that collects data of what they like the most, be it food or their sleeping habits. We have also launched a cherish campaign which allows guest to salvage memorable moments from their stay in Radisson Blu. On top of that, we are very much involved in the tourism and culinary scene of Dhaka as evident by our roles in trade shows such as Asian Tourism Fair, Food Fair and Hospitality Expos. We want to be on the forefront of supporting tourism initiatives that will really enhance Dhaka’s image as a tourist destination and in order to do so, we have opened a tour desk that offers domestic sightseeing tours. No other hotel offers this. Similarly, we are always offering tantalizing culinary experiences through various promotions such as Italian Extravaganza and Pan Asian Dine-around. Yes, the hospitality sector is ever changing but through clever planning and implementation of appropriate strategies, we have ensured that Radisson Blu remains vibrant and can always stand out.

What are some features of Radisson Dhaka that sets it apart from the other names in the hospitality sector?

Obviously what sets Radisson apart from the rest is its landscape. I am proud to say that we have the most beautiful and green outdoor landscape out of all the hotels. Out water garden, garden pond and fountain, jogging track and tennis court give our guests an out-of-town experience without ever having to leave town. We are also trying to make this more evident by providing domestic cityscape packages for local residents. They can come and enjoy a weekend getaway free from the stress of work life without having to go through the hassle of booking a holiday outside of Dhaka. Other than that, we also boast the largest pillar-less ballrooms in dhaka as well as the most and outdoor wedding venues like no other. Our location also allows us to be Dhaka’s most safe and secure hotel with also the most comprehensive parking facility. As I have mentioned, our philosophy is to create countless memories and we spare no efforts in doing so.

As the general manager, you must keep an eye and ear out on everything. Tell us about the challenges that come with the territory and how you overcome them? In your opinion what are the most important qualities that a GM must possess?

Of course, things can get a bit tricky as it is the General Manager’s duty to balance the interest of all stakeholders and sometimes their interest do not exactly align. But I always get great support from our owning company Sena Hotels Development Limited and also my team. It also took me a while to understand the local market but once you get the hang of it, you can start implementing your unique touch to it. I guess that is the most important quality that a GM must possess, they have to be visionary leaders who can execute their vision. They must not be afraid to get their hands dirty and tackle problems head on. Simply managing things and allocating work is not enough. A GM must lead by example and have the charisma to influence his team and provide the tools essential for them to grow as individuals and as professionals. He must maintain a balance between generating revenue and providing guests with new experience. In short, you must have an eye for detail and perfection and never settle for mediocrity.

What are some marketing/business trends that you expect to see in 2020?

The demand of the hospitality sector is expected to grow by 10% next year. However, 2020 will also see the opening of four new hotels in Dhaka. The addition of 760 new room will certainly increase the competition between hotels and see a sharp decline in prices but I expect us to be relatively unaffected by this as our location gives us an edge on our competition. Our location also ensures that we benefit the most from the expansion of the airport. Furthermore, with various upcoming infrastructure and power related projects as well as stability in the RMG sector, we expect 2020 to be another prosperous year. But the thing that I am looking forward to the most is the development of leisure tourism. I can easily see Dhaka becoming a hotspot for tourists but for that we require closer collaboration between government, tourism and private sectors.

Irfan Aziz is a Sub Editor of ICE Today magazine. He is a pug enthusiast who loves looking at memes, writing and sketching.