South East Europe
Meetings Industry Magazine
Maistra d. d., is one of the leading hotel companies in Croatia and a part of the Adris Grupa business concern. Its tourist facilities can be found in prestigious locations such as Rovinj and Vrsar, two marvellous Istrian tourist towns adorned by extraordinary natural and culturally historical sights. Maistra d. d. has drawn up ambitious plans concerning the development of its tourist portfolio as well as the design and establishment of its own brands of tourist products, distinguished by the highest- quality contents and services. In accordance with set goals, Maistra d. d. wants to become a byword for quality tourism in Croatia and an internationally known brand name. We have been talking to Ninoslav Vidović, the sales and marketing director.
What has this year’s tourist season been like and what are the trends for the next year?
In this tourist season, Maistra has, with its intensive marketing and sales activities, made great progress in the field of Rovinj’s and Vrsar’s visibility as the most attractive tourist destinations in Adriatic, and of Maistra itself as a high-quality tourist company. Business results have fulfilled our expectations with the physical as well as financial indicators (double-figure growth in comparison with the same period last year). In comparison with the last year, we have achieved growth of 60-per-cent just in the MICE segment, which is primarily a result of the development and construction of top-level hotels and additional contents and services, representing the central part of the direction of Maistra’s five-year strategic investment cycle.
We are awaiting the coming season with great optimism, especially if we speak of the MICE segment. By concluding the investment cycle, which will provide possibilities for further and more active development of the mentioned segment of the tourist offer, we will achieve a level of quality which will surely produce the desired business results.
With what offer do you intend to attract new congress guests to Istria in the future?
Congress tourism represents the best of Maistra’s offers. The Eden, Istra, Park and Pineta hotels have 4 big and 10 smaller conference halls altogether, with a total congress capacity of 1,200 seats. Nevertheless, the key to the development of Maistra’s offer in the MICE segment will be the winding up of the investments in the Monte Mulini zone. Being the main Maistra product in the MICE segment, as well as the best and best equipped congress centre in the region, the Monte Mulini congress centre will include 4 hotels – Lone, Monte Mulini, Eden and Park. The Monte Mulini hotel is expected to be opened at the end of 2008, and next year, we will start construction on the Lone business hotel, which will be the central hotel of the congress centre. The entire congress centre will encompass 30 halls, among which the largest will accommodate 700 participants, and there will be almost 2,000 seats available in the halls. A wide range of halls of various sizes, together with the premium service and state-of-the-art equipment, will definitely provide conditions for an impeccable organization of congresses and conferences, including the most demanding.
Considering that the Monte Mulini zone is Maistra’s main tourist product, it is clear that exclusivity as well as the quality of additional contents of this product will be its most prominent features. In the pre-season and after-season, the service network in the Monte Mulini zone will offer a various range of reasons for a visit, which will enable us to market the product to groups of consumers with very different interests, and provide accommodation in connection with congresses and seminars, sports and recreation, gastronomy, health and wellness, nature and culture.
Which direction will the company Maistra take, in the area of modern tourism, which is marked by feelings, memorable stories and luxury? What will your strategic incorporation be like and what brand names will you develop?
A contemporary tourist concept includes, more and more, a complex structure of a tourist product. Tourism is becoming a line of business which seeks its support in experiences and perceptions. The principle “value for money” is not the only one anymore; it is complemented by “experience for money” and „emotion for money”. Hotels and resorts are becoming richer in content, programmes more varied, and the demands of tourists more and more refined. The concept of our entire offer, from the accommodation capacities and services to all accompanying content, puts in the foreground our guests and their experience, which is the essence of all our ideas and strategies. At the development of the whole tourist potential, Maistra relies on destination brands, providing an authentic Istrian, Croatian and Mediterranean, which also includes highly individualized and hospitable service and the development of modern and competitive contents. All of these, taken together, will enable guests to enjoy a genuine experience, and thus will fulfill the needs of even the most demanding guests.
We can take Monte Mulini, our new exclusive boutique hotel and unique in many ways, as an example. The hotel was built with regard to the highest standards of the catering sector. As far as the equipment and staff standards, it will be suitable for placement into the offers of the “Leading Hotels of the World” association, which is new in Croatia. We will offer something new on the market; from a spectacular lobby and rooms with a beautiful view of the sea to exquisite gastronomic offerings designed by leading Croatian culinary experts.
How important are design, elegance and functionality for modern tourists? How do you keep track of that in your company?
In general, it is true that modern congress tourists expect and look for maximum comfort, which includes aesthetic and functional components of the whole tourist offer. Modern guests do not look for universality, but rather modern ambience and uniqueness, and this is exactly what we provide in Maistra. The latest classification of our Lone hotel into the prestigious international Design Hotels AG collection is proof of that. The Lone hotel has, in this way, become the first Croatian hotel within the world-famous brand name. The Design Hotels organization requires a specific and original product, which must provide a high level of service, nevertheless, it is not subject to the general standardization brought about by well-known international hotel chains.
In building new hotels and renovating already-existing ones, we strive to preserve the uniqueness, advanced architecture, design, and harmony of a given location or existing heritage.
The impeccable design and elegance of the hotels certainly make an impression on guests. Equally important is the state-of-the-art technology, which has to supplement all contents within the congress offer in a suitable way. Therefore, we have also invested in the best state-of-the-art communication technology in Maistra’s facilities, for conferences to run smoothly. Besides this, Maistra’s staff is specially trained for the congress business, providing an impeccable organization of even the most minor details for congress participants at all times.
What sales channels do you use? Are you a part of international sales systems?
This year, we have substantially increased integral marketing activities and more actively devoted ourselves to web sale and promotion and have planned our entry into new markets. We have also continued to build a continuous relationship with existing and potential customers, thus contributing to growing interest in Rovinj and Vrsar as destinations.
In addition, Maistra also attends all most important congress fairs and workshops, i.e. JATA, EIBTM, CONFEX, IMEX, Bedouk, Ediman, and works together with international consortiums and organizations (Naseba, GHOTW, etc.). Let me stress that this August, Maistra became a member of ICCA (International Congress & Convention Association), an important worldwide association on the global MICE market. This association has more than 800 members from 80 countries, and operates with the goal of maximizing business possibilities and raising standards in the field of business meetings and events organization.
It is noticeable that you are successful at using the Internet as a marketing tool. In your opinion, is there any target audience in today’s tourism which can be overlooked in the World Wide Web?
The Internet is today a phenomenon present everywhere, and the fastest growing marketing and sales channel. No other medium in the world, including Croatia, has developed in such a dynamic way as the Internet. According to the data of the Phocus Wright company, the European web tourism market is worth around 40 billion Euros, as of the last several years. In five or six years, we expect that travel booked on the web will comprise 50 % of total turnover, although unexpected changes may always turn up, because tourism is an unpredictable and touchy line of business. Website promotion and sales are very important in Maistra, because they provide impetus for our entire development strategy. Even though there are still target audiences in these modern times which do not actively use the Internet, especially the older generation or groups with lower incomes, this does not represent a hindrance for Maistra because we reach these target audiences through classic marketing channels.
How do you assess the importance of the so called “web company networks” for tourism marketing? How far can Facebook or MySpace reach in the future?
Being one of the biggest phenomena on the Internet lately, and momentarily the fastest- growing Internet community, Facebook is by all means an important factor in a sociological sense. In general, the same goes for all other web company networks. These services, which are getting more and more popular all the time, enable socializing on the Internet and attract an increasing number of users every day, and are in this view, certainly interesting as an additional promotional tool . Considering that it is a worldwide trend, enabling an easy connection with potential business clients , I think that it is a very useful tool because it gives opportunities for company networking as well as doing business. Maistra is not yet completely active in the field of such promotion or making contacts. Except the applications provided by Facebook, through which we are trying to introduce our products to Internet users in as fun a way as possible, and the Maistra group which we founded, we are not yet actively present on the world wide web. However, the consideration of web company networks as future operative systems has not been eliminated as a possibility.
How is the situation with staff? Are there enough staff for the needs of development and which staff, if any, is there a lack of?
Employees in tourism are constantly “on stage”, i.e. in the centre of guests’ attention, irrespective of in which department they work. They play the key role in keeping the guests satisfied. Employees provide the first and, most often, final impression of a building, destination, etc. Maistra recognized the problem of lack of quality staff on the market at an early stage, and thus started training its own staff team. We therefore constantly invest in the planning and execution of our own training system, which is entirely adjusted to our needs.
How are you preparing for the upcoming crisis, which will undoubtedly influence tourism as well? Are you working on any form of crisis marketing?
Active marketing activities, carried out by Maistra all year long, are outlined in the development strategy and fundamental strategic goals; these include, in particular, redesigning Rovinj and Vrsar as top-notch luxurious tourist destinations, which will take over a leading role in the development of all tourism in Croatia. Our marketing activities include all the classic marketing channels, Internet marketing and public relations. Maistra’s marketing infrastructure is very flexible and is adjusted to the momentary state of the market. If there are changes on the market, we are ready to react quickly and holistically to them.
Accessibility is one of the key conditions for the development of congress tourism. How do you deal with this problem in Rovinj and what changes are being expected?
Nowadays, it is extremely important for each serious congress organizer to assure the accessibility of the destination itself, in addition to quality congress accommodation and content. What is typical of Maistra, and what makes it more competitive among quality tourist facilities and services, is the geographical position of Rovinj as one of the closest Mediterranean congress destinations for the countries of Central and Western Europe. Good road connections and the proximity of five international airports are advantages appreciated by all the organizers and participants of congresses. Let me just mention here that Pula has already established direct airline connections with some major European cities, the number of which will only increase in the future.
How do you, personally, see the development opportunities of Rovinj? What should the municipality do for the development of tourism?
Rovinj is a destination with extraordinary tourist potential, expressed particularly in the wealth, diversity and value of its cultural andhistorical heritage, extremely attractive natural environment and top-notch offers for tourists. In order to use the potential this town has as much as possible, further development and enrichment of tourist attractions are fields that need to be actively pursued. At the same time, this means its diversification for certain market niches, for which we would provide an even broader geographical and segment marketing range, and consequently whole-year-round tourist season for the destination.