Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, is planning to open several new units in the Hungarian capital to benefit from the increasing influx of business and leisure travelers. Marriott Budapest General Manager Arne Klehn is confident that the brand’s future looks bright as the current boom in tourism is set to continue and the high-profile international events hosted by the city next year will boost demand further.
A record number of tourists visited Hungary last year and the trend continues unabated in 2019, powered by the increase in the attractiveness of the country and central Europe as a tourist destination. The hotel industry is benefiting from this favorable environment and an impressive number of new hotel developments are underway. Marriott International plays a key part in this expansionary drive. “In order to stay on top of the game, Marriott will be increasing its footprint. Currently we only have five hotels of our brand portfolio in the city, and I am confident we will increase this number soon,” Arne Klehn says in an interview.
No threat from disruptive initiatives
The General Manager notes that Marriot is guarded from disruptive developments in the hotel industry and the company’s loyalty program Bonvoy, its strongest brand, offers very strong incentive for guests not to choose other types of accommodation. However, companies like AirBnB, are taking up an increasing share of the accommodation market and traditional hotels are also coming up with new initiatives to cater to evolving customer needs. “We clearly see that we need to step into the home sharing market, therefore we designed a new brand called Homes and Villas by Marriott, which is a selection of curated, unique properties across the world, including castles, villas, and luxury apartments, where our Bonvoy guests can also get points for their stay,” Klehn says, adding that Budapest is not yet on the list of locations where the new brand will be introduced.
Despite fierce local competition, especially in the higher segment of the hotel industry, and the competitive threat posed by cruise liners which also offer accommodation, Klehn is confident that the increase in corporate visits and events and higher guest numbers will ensure the continued success of Marriott in Budapest. The number of visitors arriving to Hungary from countries traditionally important for the tourist industry rose in the first 5 months of the year, with the number of guests from the U.S. jumping by nearly 11% on an annual basis and by close to 10% in the case of the U.K. and France, according to data published by the Association of Hungarian Hotels and Restaurants. This is an encouraging development for Marriott Budapest, as 40% of the hotel’s guests arrive from America, Klehn notes. Promising outlook Marriott Budapest was off to an unexpectedly strong start this year despite ongoing renovations, Klehn says, adding that as a result the occupancy rate at the hotel will be 89% in 2019.
The General Manager took over the helm at Budapest Marriott in May 2018, just months after the start of a wide-scale renovation project under which the hotel rooms, the lobby, the DNB Budapest restaurant and the Liz and Chain bar were all given a facelift. ”The strong inflow of visitors is set to continue over the coming years, and events like the UEFA European Football Championship, the European Petrochemical Association congress, the International Eucharistic Congress, and the U.S. MICE congress – all scheduled for 2020 - will bring a lot of additional visitors to the city. So, 2020 is set to be even better than this year,” Klehn concludes.
About Arne Klehn
A Well-Travelled Romantic Arne Klehn, a father of two, brings over 20 years of professional experience across the tourism and hotel industry. The Kiel, Germany-born executive became General Manager at the age of 29 and has worked at Marriott hotels in the U.K., the U.S., Germany, Paris and Turkey before moving to Budapest. “Our daughter was born in Instanbul, our son in Budapest and my wife moved twice while being pregnant,” he says. Klehn, a self-proclaimed romantic, learnt skiing at the age of 42 so he could master the slopes together with his daughter. "The ski trip I took with the family was one of the most intense and at the same time relaxing vacations I have ever had.” Klehn likes both red and white wine and during visits to a couple of Hungarian wineries he was delighted by local wines and food. He runs regularly and does deep work pilates, loves listening to jazz and pop music. “Lake Balaton is on the top of my bucket list, we will definitely visit it before the end of the season. The Balkans also feature high on the list and living in Budapest offers a great opportunity to visit these countries.”