INTRODUCING SLOVENIA AS A LUXURY DESTINATION
Saša Zor is a Sales and Marketing hotel industry expert experienced in both domestic and foreign markets. As an elected Member of the Executive Board of the Convention Bureau and of the Slovenian Hoteliers’ Association, as well as an active Member of management clubs’ committees and a mentor for postgraduate studies, she is involved in strategic projects promoting Slovenia as a top tourist destination. She gained professional experience as Head of Sales and Marketing at an independent hotel in Ljubljana, as a cluster director of business sales in the largest tourism company in Slovenia, and as of May of this year she took over the position of Director of Sales and Marketing at the Intercontinental Hotel in Ljubljana. Luxury tourism is her passion and identity.
Q: When is the grand opening of InterContinental in Ljubljana planned for and what are your main tasks in advance of the opening?
The final countdown has already begun, as the Hotel is opening in less than two months from now – to be precise, on August 15th.
As the Director of Sales and Marketing for this prestigious hotel group I already feel honoured to be part of the team in the pre-opening phase, starting from scratch to co-create this success story. There were only a few people hired when I came on board and we quickly became a close-knit group. It is like being welcomed into a new family. The best part of the pre-opening experience is being able to bond well with the team, which is crucial for successful collaboration. As the weeks pass and the team grows, we get to know and understand each other more deeply. Flexibility, multitasking and a positive attitude are of utmost important.
My key tasks in this period are to recruit, hire and train the sales and marketing team, to research the market in order to identify demand generators, to create sales and marketing plans as well as pricing policy, to define the distribution and sales channels, to establish corporate identity and marketing campaigns, to build community awareness by establishing relationships with local authorities, key accounts, convention bureau and relevant agencies, and to work hand in hand with a brand area sales team of directors and account managers, etc.
These months, prior to the grand opening, are definitely the busiest but also the most rewarding ones, as every day we are a step closer to proudly welcoming our first guests. Honestly, it warms my heart to picture myself decades from now when I will be passing by the hotel and knowing that I was a part of its story from the very beginning.
Q: What will be your biggest challenge as the Director of Sales & Marketing of InterContinental Ljubljana?
It may sound like a cliché, but it’s true – I look at every challenge as an opportunity. One of these will definitely be to raise the awareness of Slovenia and Ljubljana in order to attract our targeted clients and new market niches. InterContinental Ljubljana will be the first 5-star hotel in the city, which is consequently calling for different sales and marketing strategies. With this in mind, my key mission is to introduce Slovenia as a luxury destination, as there is currently a misperception of Slovenia being a ‘budget’ one. Despite Ljubljana’s seasonality, our aim is to perform well throughout the whole year, attracting the appropriate clientele. ‘ADR and RevPar’ – this is our new mantra.
Q: What will the InterContinental Ljubljana congress facilities and congress offer be like?
MICE will be one of the key segments to focus on in our business mix. Five functional meeting rooms located on two floors with 530m² of event space will offer flexible solutions for any kind of corporate or social event from 5 to 300 people. The self-contained conference centre, located on the minus-2 Floor, will provide vast branding possibilities topped off with a contemporary interior design and sophisticated details reflecting Slovenian authenticity.
The pillar-free, square-shaped Ballroom with a maximum capacity of 300 persons in theatre style and the possibility to be divided into 2 identical parts makes an ideal venue for conferences, gala dinners, workshops and exhibitions, featuring state-of-the-art inbuilt equipment (Bose sound system, EIKI projector, Sennheiser equipment), high ceilings and the proximity of two break-out rooms.
On the 19th floor there are two additional multifunctional rooms with a vast range of possible set-ups and boasting a magnificent panoramic view of the city of Ljubljana.
The culinary offer of the hotel, including the banqueting menus, will be inspired and conceptualized by the renowned Michelin star Chef Alfredo Russo, and we will also opt for creating a unique gastronomic experience for event attendees.
Q: What will be InterContinental advantages compared to the current Ljubljana hotel offer and how will it improve Ljubljana in terms of the meetings industry?
InterContinental Ljubljana is the first 5- star hotel in the city and the only IHG branded hotel in Slovenia. With the largest loyalty programme with more than 100 Million members, IHG will help us penetrate markets and clients who may have never before considered Ljubljana as the potential destination for their business/leisure trip. It is brand recognition and brand image, together with strong support from the global sales team, that we will arm ourselves with.
Without a doubt, bringing the highest level of quality standards to the destination will positively influence other hotels and caterers in the city as well. Our state of art conference centre and high-end service will offer opportunities for event organisers on a totally different level, introducing additional meeting space to Ljubljana’s MICE portfolio to service top-end clients.
Q: What will be your strategy for success at InterContinental Ljubljana and how do you plan to execute it?
Due to the InterContinental brand and its recognition for high quality standards, our goal is to introduce these to the market and, very importantly, blend them with local knowledge and authenticity. The hotel industry is based on satisfied employees coming to work every day with a smile on their face, so one of my main tasks will be to recruit the best possible sales team members who will pass their enthusiastic energy and passion to clients. At the end of the day, on your own, you can win a game. As a team, you can win championships. Only in synergy within our ‘Super Sales team’, as we like to call ourselves, can we achieve goals and position the InterContinental Ljubljana as a pioneer of modern luxury.