Thomas SWIECA, General Manager at Radisson Blu Old Mill Hotel Belgrade
Thomas Swieca, the general manager of the Radisson Blu Old Mill hotel in Belgrade, was born in Germany. He graduated from WIHOGA Dortmund Academy of Operational Management in the Hospitality Industry and has many years of experience in the hotel industry. He has built his career based on various posts at the hotels Maritim in Cologne, Konigshof in Bonn and SportSchloss in Velen. He joined the Rezidor group in June 2005, when he became general manager, responsible for opening the Radisson Blu Media Harbour hotel in Düsseldorf. In 2010 he became General Manager of the Radisson Blu Resort El Quseir hotel in Egypt, and in May 2011 he participated in opening the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Cesme in Turkey as executive manager.
Q: When did you join Radisson?
I started my journey in 2005 in Dusseldorf, where I built a hotel, which was actually the first lifestyle hotel for Radisson. Now we already have 4 different brands all over the globe. The hotel in Belgrade is the first design hotel in the city, designed by Graft Architects.
Q: What are the vital statistics of the new Belgrade hotel?
The hotel has 236 fashion-inspired rooms, including 14 suites designed by the prestigious Graft Architects with brilliant artwork selected by Strauss & Hillegart. The hotel’s OMB Larder + Lounge offers a unique dining experience, incorporating theatre, fun and an element of the unexpected into every dish. The atmosphere harks back to the mill’s authentic heritage, with an industrial-chic aesthetic.
Q: What sets the Radisson Old Mill apart and makes it attractive to the meetings market?
I think we are different because of our open mind and concept, our staff is very handy and also has some freshness, which gives us a whole new look. Our meeting rooms are large and we have meetings for everyone. Here in Serbia I get the feeling that the people are very different than in most of European countries, because they are simple and friendly.
All in all, the hotel is specialised in offering services for business people, among which is also a modern conference centre with stateoftheart equipment and technology. The biggest difference can probably be found in the cuisine the hotel offers, which is opening new horizons with its team.
Q: Where is the greatest competition and how do you face it?
Before anything else Belgrade is at the moment a business destination in our category, in which we are all fighting for the same customers. We expect many guests to come due to our brand, which is recognisable, but also because we understand their needs and expectations. By and large we will, however, try to orient ourselves on key European and regional markets. It goes without saying that we cooperate with all other hotels as is appropriate and I believe that there is still enough room for development.
Q: Where would you like to see Belgrade in two-years time?
First of all we need to attract tourists to come to Belgrade. The culture, night life and restaurants are fantastic, but I feel like there should be more hotels and the connection between these things. Also many countries are concerned about safety. In the German newspapers there is constantly bad news about people in the Balkans and I think that is the main reason for fear in my country. The trend in the world right now is to go back to our roots and to nature, which Belgrade does offer, just out of town.
Q: How popular is Serbia as a destination for meetings and events?
Personally, I am confident that the future of the meeting industry will be positive. The number of topnotch hotels is growing, and with its rapid development and the expansion of its airways Air Serbia is creating optimism. Many companies are moving their headquarters to Belgrade. However, the Sava Centre needs to be restored and changed into a modern congress centre. A lot of work needs to be done in the fields of infrastructure and public transport, where we are still falling behind.
Q: What is the most positive thing about the meetings industry in Serbia?
In only a few years, the image of Belgrade has changed and the exponential growth in congresses did not go unseen. Moreover, media helped positioning the city as “the new capital of cool”, a city that is vibrant 24 hour per day. The local meeting industry is extremely positive and has lots of experience. Maybe it lacks in structure and a systematic approach. But it is economically attractive and if good use is made of its strategic position between east and west, it has a bright future. Probably the greatest assets of this destination are human resources and their competencies. Belgrade has high-quality personnel to offer.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a hotel manager of a new hotel in Belgrade?
After one year spent in the amazing city of Belgrade, I am thrilled to finally open this inimitable property. Yes I Can! service, surrounded by the 19th century’s details, successfully combined with the latest designer touch. Belgrade is where you want to be if you want to drink Russian, drive German, wear Italian, kiss French and … party Serbian.