Georg Unterkircher, General Manager at FALKENSTEINER Punta Skala Resort
Q: You recently hosted the World promotion of the new BMW 2-series Grand Tourer. In your opinion what was pivotal in your resort being chosen to host this event?
The main reason for choosing Punta Skala Resort, namely our Falkensteiner Hotel&SPA Iadera, was the infrastructural and destination advantages that we have in Punta Skala. As you know, the Punta Skala resort is a carefully planned project with three stand-alone properties that are positioned in different segments, from family to upscale leisure and MICE. Our resort is a destination with 30Ha of function space connected with scenic driving routes and sophisticated infrastructure. We have a large, covered and secure garage with washing facilities, a large space in front of all hotels for cars display, as well as the possibility to enter with vehicles into the majority of our outdoor and indoor venues. Our hotel is a member of Leading Hotels of the World, which is an additional guarantee for service excellence, and in Punta Skala resort within two minutes walking distance you have a variety of accommodation options also run by Falkensteiner: from 4 star superior to a 5 star hotel and upscale vacation rentals. This gives to an organiser options for smooth operations, desirable service for VIPs and staff, as well as safety and security in handling the project. BMW recognized all of the above mentioned aspects as our strengths.
The last, but definitely not least, aspect is our team of experts who have planned and carried out the demanding operational requirements set by BMW and responded with an utmost professionalism to all of the client’s demands. I would like to mention that BMW is, so far, the most complex project taking into account the length of time and the manpower involved. However, in the past we have also done Chevrolet, Mini Cooper, Ferrari, Harley Davidson… to name just a few.
Q: To what extent did the power of the Falkensteiner brand and your personal acquaintances contribute to securing this event?
The Falkensteiner brand is known in the German-speaking market, where it stands for quality performance and a ‘welcome home’ service. Those are values that have been recognized through projects, including those of BMW too. We all gave our important contribution as a company and as individuals to make the BMW project a roaring success.
This project started almost 2 years ago with BMW’s first visit to the destination. Back then we were in competition with France, Spain and Italy. Personally I was very much involved in helping guide my team to conduct every process to getting this business confirmed with us. As a team we were quick, creative, assertive and very enthusiastic about this prospect. It required lot of effort from my team and me personally, but it paid off and I was very happy when we realized that Punta Skala won over destinations such as the Cote d Azur.
Q: As a general manager what do you expect from your employees at such events?
I except from my team in such events and in general team work and spirit, mutual respect, efficiency, creativity and integrity. Those are values essential for any aspect of hospitality, especially in the MICE segment where a team is often forced to think outside the box and find creative solutions for challenges it faces. I expect a full focus on operational excellence and on fulfilling guests’ needs. Our resort is about creating experiences while providing a superb quality of service – my team is focusing on that daily.
Q: To be able to host more similar events what does a destination such as Zadar need?
I am happy to see that some improvements to destination management of Zadar have been made since I moved to Croatia eight years ago. However, more intensive destination management has to be implemented. It is important that all the stakeholders of the Zadar tourism scene work with the same goal in mind, and that is the development of destination infrastructure and the general offer. In Punta Skala we do a lot for the promotion of the Zadar region. We promote our resort and our company, but also Zadar city, the nearby islands and the vast natural beauty that we are surrounded by. Technically speaking, a convention centre would increase interest among the international MICE planners, as would better connectivity with flights in pre and post season.
Q: What kind of congress projects are ideas for the Punta Skala resort?
We focus on the automotive industry for which we can offer our unique selling points. In addition, we build up international incentive programmes, as we feel that Punta Skala has so much to offer, starting from cooking classes, watersports activities, adventure programmes, biking and hiking routes as well as the excellent dining possibilities. In the resort we have a few dining concepts; the fine dining restaurant Bracera basically on the Adriatic cliffs, traditional Planika konoba on the beach, and La veranda Tratorria, dining al fresco by the pool.
People come to us for sports possibilities too. Running, swimming and biking is important at the moment and in our surroundings you have routes that can be compared with best Italian or French biking options.
As I said before, having this amazing space in front of us we are not just hotels, we are also destination management creators trying to offer the best of the destination with a special Falkensteiner touch.
Q: What are the key success factors in the management of the hotel?
People, product and positioning. The team makes all difference, even if the product is not in the best shape. We are in hospitality – an industry of people that can shape what might perhaps not be the best experiences into the amazing ones. Maintaining product excellence is a challenge that I personally like very much, as well as finding the strategy for how to position our properties in the best way to deliver desirable results.
To be successful in hotel management one needs to have knowledge and understanding of every aspect of a hotel: operations, sales, revenue, finance, controlling and marketing. It also requires an understanding of product differentiations and what it entails to manage a property of 3 or 5 stars. Without that successful management, I believe it is not possible. I am lucky and grateful to have been trained and involved in all aspects of hotel management, as seeing the big picture and knowing how your product can be developed inevitably brings success to it.
Q: What makes Iadera Hotel different from the other hotels on the Adriatic?
Our Iadera property is a unique, contemporary hotel that has best of both: leisure and MICE. On one side you have ACQUAPURA SPA – the world of wellness and wellbeing that spreads over 6,000sq.m with the most sophisticated treatments one can imagine, and one the other side you have a smaller but well planned conference centre with state of the art facilities. Our F&B concept is unique on the Adriatic as we combine culinary wisdom from the Alpine and Adriatic regions. But the most distinguished factor is my team, one that relentlessly plans and executes very many sales and operational activities in order to meet targets that are ambitious.
Q: What qualities must a good General Manager of the resort have?
Very good listening skills and patience and understanding for challenges that are coming our way. The GM must also celebrate team success and communicate any omissions through learning experiences. The General Manager of the resort should seek to have a broad understanding of everything about it, from landscaping, the water supply system and entertainment programmes in hotels to the contracting of major tour operators and KPIs. A GM does not necessarily need to be involved in all of that, but must have an understanding of processes in order to be able to lead the team and make the right decisions.
In addition, one has to have a very flexible family to support the lifestyle of a GM, which is long working hours and a concern for the team, operations, sales and revenue results.
Q: How do you rate destination management and cooperation at the destination in general?
The part of this question I’ve already answered before; positive improvements are there, but many things yet to be done. Additional investments are needed, especially in opening more five stars hotels that shape up a destination and in a way force other tourism businesses to deliver a better service. The hinterland of Zadar has so much potential, but at the moment it lacks sustainable development. This must be taken in respect of the land, as it is fertile and can be great for wine making and creating authentic rural experiences. I see sports, especially biking, as a good option for extension of season. However, consistency is the key factor for the development of destination management. I welcome a Croatia 365 idea and this can be a first step to more serious destination management development.
Q: Does Zadar provide enough to a congress tourist? What could be further improved?
Our two resorts, Punta Skala and Borik, are an essential part of MICE destination development, as we have a higher market share of conference rooms in the destination. As for now for smaller MICE – up to 200/250 pax – there is a satisfactory offer. However, should Zadar as a destination decide to develop this segment on a larger scale, we need to have flights, more meeting facilities and a more developed off-site offer, such as restaurants that can handle larger groups.
Q: How can you attract more congress guests to Zadar and how would you improve its visibility?
From Iadera’s side, our team is participating at MICE trade shows and is doing acquisitions locally and abroad. Our marketing department is involved in developing the optimum visibility of Iadera for the MICE segment and when we do that we never leave out Zadar and other nearby places. I think consistency is the key factor in the promotion of a destination as a congress one, but also the infrastructural development.
Q: Where did you receive your formal education?
College graduate in “High School for modern languages”, finished in 1996. Study of “Management for Hotel and Gastronomy” from 1996 to 1999 in “Fachhochschule Kaiserhof”, Postgraduate Management education for “Hotel and Gastronomy” Meran/South Tyrol in cooperation with the Faculty of tourism in Munich/Pasing.
Q: How long have you been in the Falkensteiner Hotel Group?
For 15 years in different positions and departments and as GM since 2004.
Hey! I am first heading line feel free to change me
Q: A short CV of the General Manager:
Collecting working experiences in different positions and departments in F&B, Rooms Division and Sales & Marketing in Italy (South Tyrol and Sardegna), Spain (Mallorca), Czech Republic (Prague) and Austria (Tyrol, Carinthia, Vienna), then moving up as F&B Manager and later Resident Manager before becoming Assistant General Manager of 2 Hotels in Vienna with my first pre-opening experience. After that being GM for 5 years in Falkensteiner Hotel in Carinthia, since 2008 GM of Punta Skala Resort with the properties Hotel & Spa Iadera***** (opened 2011), Family Hotel Diadora****S (opened 2009), Senia Residences****(*) (opened 2010) with Premium Living Services and Apartments Petrcane**** (opened 2013), in total 781 units with approximately 500 employees during the summer months, and in 2013 also Interim GM for Schlosshotel Velden***** on Woerther Lake.