By Réka Alíz Francisck
Extensive renovation work started at the Budapest Marriott Hotel in January of this year. The first phase was completed just recently, on April 24, fully transforming all guestrooms, except for the Presidential Suite, which will be done in 2019, while the executive lounge will be done during 2018. The final phase of renewal works will be finished by next year, when a new lobby, restaurant, bar, and modernized event spaces will welcome guests. The project kicked off under Rick Enders who, following a 4-year stay at Budapest as GM, left to Qatar in April, to lead the Marriott Marquis City Center Doha Hotel. Consequently, the newly appointed General Manager Arne Klehn will oversee further renovations. “The idea was to turn this hotel into a 21th-century destination for a new generation travelers,” Enders notes. “It wasn’t just cosmetic changes we needed, considering that the previous renovations took place ten years ago. In the case of the 363 guest rooms, we have changed the entire interior, top to bottom, including the wall coverings and the flooring, the lighting, the furniture and all accessories.”
According to Enders, the project was implemented within a very tight time frame. “Despite the current situation of the Hungarian construction industry, the prestigious refurbishment project has been accomplished continuously without any disruption,” he notes. “The total room refurbishment was completed in less than 4 months of undisturbed and smooth operation, carried out by the Spanish Meran team headed by a Hungarian lady, Sára Tolnai, of 3E International, who gave us technical supervision services and KÉSZ Építő és Szerelő Inc. our general contractor. It is true though, that we went through 18-months of planning prior to construction, so we could make sure that our guests wouldn’t notice anything.” Enders reveals that the Marriott chain works hard to find out what guests need around the globe these days, through various channels. Klehn agrees, adding that gathering market insight, in addition to standard methods such as customer comment cards and focus groups, involves the use of a pilot hotel, which functions as an innovation lab. “In the US, Charlotte Marriott City Center allows the company to test out new ideas as it gears up for the next generation of consumers who will soon make up the bulk of the hotel guests.” Beta project Enders remarks that the most recently redesigned Marriott hotels have rooms with wood floors rather than the traditional carpet, as Marriott guests say that wood makes them feel more at home, and it is also more hygienic. “Another shift in guest behavior is the tendency of neglecting the wardrobes. Those guests, who arrive for less than a week, prefer not to unpack their suitcases. So we have introduced our open wardrobe (a stylish clothing rack), to keep things a little more organized with less effort. A highlight of the refurbishments, and my personal favorite, is the chic, comfy and spacious bench that is placed in front of the huge windows overlooking the picturesque Buda castle, Gellért Hill and the Danube, in almost every room – I’m sure it will be loved by guests.” Klehn smiles and adds he was amazed too, when he found out that Budapest Marriott Hotel has this outstanding feature: offering breathtaking panorama from all of its rooms. He says that indeed, the perfect harmony is created in all rooms by the exciting blend of pastel shades of the walls and draperies combined with those vibrant colors of the decorations. “Natural light in every room brings the whole setting alive with the background of the amazing city view, which I fell in love with the moment I arrived, two weeks ago.”
According to both GMs, the new beds are extremely comfortable; bed scarves were replaced with minimal style, soft bedlinen, decorated with elegant cushions. The safe is now placed inside the nightstand, providing easier access to one’s belongings and it is a size of a drawer, which can easily hold a laptop. The size of the desk was also optimized for laptops, making the room more spacious. All curtains were replaced by electronic window blinds that can be controlled from the bedside panel. Bearing in mind the importance of environmental matters, recycling bins were placed in each guestroom as a crucial step towards green operation of the hotel that already went as paperless as possible in the past year. IPTVs and new phones were installed to provide better connectivity to guests’ devices, and, as Klehn highlights, doors will soon turn high-tech too, and guests will be able to open and close them using their smartphones.
“Research conducted by Marriott also found that guests, and in particular millennials, are interested in mingling in open spaces and are willing to meet new people and start conversations with locals, during their stay in the café or even in the gym. So, in Budapest, we have introduced a program called ‘Terrace Challenge’ which is open to anyone interested in doing a little exercise, led by our in-house instructor, downstairs on our terrace, on the Danube Corso. The first sesion was very popular last Saturday, which I unfortunately missed, but will make sure to attend the next one. I encourage your readers to do so, every Saturday, and, following the workout, stay for lunch and try our all-you-can-eat option at HUF 5,000,” Klehn continues. “Also targeting Budapest residents, as well as our own guests, our DJ Night will continue on Saturday nights with our resident DJ Andrea Lane,” he adds, noting that he is looking forward to the spectacular fireworks coming up on August 20. “I’m sure we’ll put up a fabulous program that day,” he promises enthusiastically. “Guests, when traveling, often search for the best restaurants in town. I’d like them to try our restaurant first, so we’ll add more local touches to it. In the near future, Peppers! Mediterranean Grill will be transformed into something totally different,” the new GM notes, uncovering that the brand new concept will have something to do with the 22 Hungarian wine regions. “As an “operational guy”, I’m looking forward to continue the renovations in this well-run hotel I took over from my predecessor and seeing how I can move the hotel to the next level.”
About Arne Klehn
Arne Klehn has over 20 years’ experience in the tourism and hospitality industry. He started his career in a front desk position at the Renaissance Heathrow Hotel, London in 1998, and then he joined the team of Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa on the West Coast of the US. Back from the US, in Germany he was part of the opening team of the Berlin Marriott Hotel as Front Office Manager and gained further experience at Cologne and Regensburg – where he was General Manager. In 2010 he moved to Paris where he became Opening General Manager of the Courtyard by Marriott Paris Arcueil and later in 2012 dual Property General Manager at the Courtyard by Marriott Paris Arcueil & Neuilly. In November 2013 Arne was promoted to General Manager of the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport Marriott Hotel and from there he moved to Turkey in 2015 to lead Marriott Hotel Sisly, where he had his first child born. He arrived in Budapest in May, along with his family that will soon welcome its 4th member. He says both he and his wife had a good gut feeling when they landed in Budapest, and can’t wait to discover what the capital city has to offer.