Marina Valkanova is the Deputy CEO of Minstroy Holding AD. She is the Manager of Borovets Hills EOOD and Orpheus Spa Complex. She graduated in Business Administration and Marketing from Richmond College, The International American University in London, and she also took a course in Hotel Management in Munich. At Balkanturist, she was the Director of Marketing and Advertising.
Mrs. Valkanova, what are your business tasks for 2020?
To invest in technological advancements that ensure quick and easy purchase of tourist services from anywhere around the globe. To increase the flow of Bulgarian and foreign tourists by maintaining and upgrading the quality achieved. Innovation and diversification of services are a must for us.
What kind of a business is the management of not only one, but two large luxury hotels?
The hotel business is not an easy one. We don’t just sell products, but experiences. Only one mistake and a horrible online comment emerges immediately: “I will never set foot in this hotel again!” This is a dynamic business for people that are ready to experiment and deploy new solutions. A good leader is good at their job and understands their employees well. Social skills and a solid team are necessary. What is important is decision making, analysing the situation, creating adequate working conditions, setting tasks correctly, following their implementation and having feedback.
How did you find the right niche?
To a great extend the regions where the two hotels are found defined where we should position ourselves. In Borovets, the complex is aimed at ski and spa tourists, conference tourism and families with children. The services in Borovets Hills Spa Complex are in line with the growing demands of consumers. The rooms are luxurious and comfortable, the restaurant has an excellent cuisine, the service is at the highest level. In Devin, the complex with an individual style and atmosphere is located in a magnificent private park, in close proximity to the mountain. The natural resources in the region help us have a real palace of health, with all the necessary conditions for applying the most up-to-date prophylaxis and balneotherapy, regenerating and beautifying procedures.
Is there a routine in the hotel business?
Routine is experience and skill, in this sense there should be a routine. These are the so-called standards with which we achieve quality. This includes routine activities, such as welcoming, accommodating, feeding, cleaning, seeing off. If we accept routine as a template and monotony, then my answer is no, it should not exist. The innovations, diversity and diligence are always important in order to meet tourists’ expectations.
Did you find a way to divert some of the big tourist flow that gets out of Bulgaria and goes to Greece?
The big flow to Greece is mainly during the summer season and it is mostly felt by our sea hotels. In the ski, spa and balneology segment, there is no outflow of tourists; that is why our two hotels enjoy good occupancy throughout the year.
Which are the factors that make the tourism in Bulgaria noticeably worse?
First of all, the human factor. Service is not at a very good level in most hotels and restaurants. Due to the high employee turnover and the low payment, often, the people in services are unprepared, unmotivated and insufficient. The price-quality ratio is also not good. In most cases we pay high prices for poor quality. That is why tourists prefer to spend their vacation in neighbouring countries where at the same or lower prices, they receive a better service and product. The problem with resorts is that everything closes down after the active season. In 2019, the weather at the seaside was wonderful until the end of October, but after August, there was no interest. The situation is the same in Borovets. We receive tourists all year round, but no shops, pharmacies, restaurants and travel agencies work at the resort. Before December, it is completely dark and there is no way for it to be a desired destination. In order to attract more tourists, we have to extend the seasons. We have everything we need – nature, mountains, sea, healing mineral springs, wine and food, history... Let’s use these advantages wisely in order to be a desired destination.
Have you found the sustainable formula of a successful hotel?
If there was such a formula, it would have been easy and convenient to work. But there are four important things – persistence in quality, regular investments, initiative and a good team.
Orpheus Spa Complex