“If you want to go to Paris, St. Petersburg”: a hotelier on what awaits tourism

What do you think the hotel industry is doing this year?

– The epidemic trend will continue. What’s going on now? In fact, the country is economically closed. But the Russians will not go anywhere either – for economic reasons, geopolitical reasons, etc. In other words, we are actually locked in a country. Therefore, for example, in my hotel there will only be Russians. And then St. Petersburg is probably the only city in Russia that literally replaces the European direction. I often say: “If you want to go to the Louvre, you will come to the Hermitage; if you want to go to Paris, you will come to St. Petersburg.” This city has a special position, I would even say, a much higher priority than Moscow.

– Why? Why is St. Petersburg better than Moscow?

— Because St. Petersburg there are Muscovites. And Moscow has no Muscovites in terms of tourism. We are Moscow’s “navels” in the sense that we are close. In fact, it’s a huge conglomerate. And now we have a lot of Muscovites. They are mobile, active, sociable, sociable and solvent. This is a huge plus for us because St. Communication with St. Petersburg is excellent. Petersburg is a classic weekend city. This is not a place where they spend a full holiday, they come here for two or three days, but they come often.

– But your hotel is “sharpened” for a foreign tourist. Who will come this year?

-Our industry is organized to host guests for you. It does not matter who is Russian or foreign. If we traditionally worked for about 20% of Russians and 80% of foreigners during the summer, the opposite is now true. April and May were very active for us, we felt the high demand. But that makes sense – because it was a very depressing March. Now we understand that people are used to it. We are pure emotional service and people start traveling as soon as they are emotionally rejuvenated.

– But are you still waiting for guests from other countries?

– We welcome tourists from friendly countries. We know from the experience of past years that citizens of Arab countries come to us from India, to a lesser extent from China, Southeast Asia and South Korea.

“All these strangers have strange demands. Will you set it up somehow?

– We have almost no group tourists, we do not work for the mass market. As a rule, these guests came through an online aggregator, and that’s a slightly different story because it’s a different consumer.

If we talk about Chinese citizens, group tourists are very different from those who come individually through an online aggregator. This is a completely different layer of these citizens – they are used to travel, they have money, they travel to Western Europe, they travel to the Old World, they form other consumption habits that are much closer to us. They do not fart, they do not burp, they do not eat from tables, for example, group citizens from southeast countries. Because it is a completely different cultural tradition.

– Do you think foreigners will leave despite the sanctions?

— The most important magnet for a traveler is cheapness. In reality, the sanctions of an ordinary tourist are not interested. I do not exclude that some citizens of supposedly unfriendly countries from Central and Western Europe may go this year. But that’s if the visa regimen is not complicated. Our economic interests are to have a mass tourist from any country, especially solvent ones. And the highest solvency is still Western Europe and the USA.

— The last two years have been tough for the hospitality industry as well. How did you overcome the epidemic?

The epidemic came as a shock to us. It all happened on March 5, when the economic forum was cancelled. Life is divided into before and after. First they announced the cancellation of the economic forum, then they closed the borders. This shock forced us to make many changes. And that was our strength, because a small hotel is more mobile than any network. What did the networks do? They just closed. And we had to survive, I have 200 people working. The goal was to survive at all costs.

– And what did you do?

— We always grouped, mobilized and worked. I needed money to pay employees, and I had an idea: I suggested guests isolate themselves in a hotel for 60,000 a month. And we just became a residential building – the same people went down to breakfast with their cats and dogs. In the evening, guests went down to the courtyard and drank wine, as in a sanatorium or hostel. And this story helped us get through the pandemic pretty easily. True, then there was another problem – how to get rid of these people quietly.

– You started making Helvetia in 1993. Do you remember your first guests?

– I remember very well the first guest – he was the press secretary of the Swiss Embassy. We’ve been waiting for him, we’re getting ready. And they met him in the courtyard with a tray of vodka. Everything was so sweet, so pure. Then there was the atmosphere, people realized that they were going to apartments in general. And such things happened when your family came, they have a three-room apartment – that is, a three-room apartment with a kitchen. Here they stand on the threshold and say: “Oh, which bedroom shall we spend the night in? Now he will have to think. Why do we need three bedrooms? Will we sleep in one, or on a different night each night?

Are any of the first guests arriving now?

– No, not the first one. We laughed, there was the other day [Юрий] Shatunov. He says to me: “You know what, this is my first time meeting you.” “No Yura, we had you” I say and tell him a year. I remember very well how the girls stood at our door and sang “Tender May”. And he doesn’t remember it. Many guests are already on friendly terms. Max Averin has been staying with us for 20 years. And he always says: “If I go to you and there is no number, they will not let me go home. This is my house, I have been in every room. So I drive and I dream already: I ​​will sit in the courtyard, order my favorite big piece of pork … And if I do not enter the house it will be terrible for me.

Which guest did you trust when you started? Were these expectations justified?

– We went through all the stages from a budget hotel, actually a hostel, to a premium hotel. When we started Helvetia there was still a residential building in the building. So in fact, we were a prototype of the aparthotels that would later replace them. We bought an apartment, repaired it and rented it out. We rent it as an apartment and someone lives next door.

— Why did you leave the aparthotel format?

– Because the guest always had the feeling: “Why do I need two more rooms for one night? Could it be cheaper?” The guest always felt like he was overpaying. So in the 2000s, when we had already placed a sizable portion of the apartments, we broke and split everything we built. We started a second major overhaul when we did it. We started the next major overhaul in 2016 as we were getting ready to be the “five”. And they did it until 2018, because people live with you, you do piecemeal repairs. My life is endless construction. I’ve been living in construction for all these 27 years.

This year, Russian luxury hotels will receive import substitution – instead of foreign tourists, hoteliers are waiting for Russians. First of all, they are mobile, active and solvent Muscovites. Hotelier and St. Yunis Teymurkhanly, owner of the Helvetia Hotel in St. Petersburg, told socialbites.ca about St. Petersburg. He talked about why St. Petersburg is better than Moscow and why foreign tourists are not afraid of sanctions.

Source: Gazeta


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