|By Will Buss, Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
July 24, 2004 - HIGHLAND, Ill. -- An international hotel chain has chosen Highland for its new U.S. call center.
Anne Balke-Sanchez, the director of the Americas Division of MinOtel International, said the independent company initially opened its first U.S. call center in Atlanta last year. Now, it is being moved to Highland.
"I grew up in Highland, and I decided to relocate back to this area because it was of Swiss origins, and the hotel chain was Swiss founded," Balke-Sanchez said.
MinOtel International was established in 1980. Headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, the chain has 700 hotels in 34 countries, which now include two U.S. locations in Boston and South Beach, Fla. The company is also a wholesale tour operator and provides tourism packages for destinations throughout the world.
Since leaving Highland, Balke-Sanchez joined MinOtel International and has lived in Colombia, South America, and in Mexico. Five years ago, she founded her own tourism business, Hospitality Consultant International, and incorporated it into the hotel's operations.
Balke-Sanchez said she found Atlanta to be not very safe, and she favored Highland's central locale and time zone to best accommodate a clientele that calls from across the country for accommodations.
Also, as director of the U.S. office, Balke-Sanchez said she had a lot of say in the matter. Hometown pride played a part.
"Crime and overhead in Atlanta is becoming a nightmare," she said. "I come back (to Highland) about every 18 months and it seems like the Swiss heritage is just being put by the wayside. I really felt that I could offer a Swiss business in a Swiss town."
Highland was founded by Swiss pioneers in 1831. At first, they dubbed their community New Schweizerland, or New Switzerland.
Each of MinOtel International's hotels are family owned, with many being operated by third and fourth generations.
Reservations and trips can be planned by calling (866) 788-6835. MinOtel International's Americas Division can be reached throughout the United States 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
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