News for the Hospitality Executive
Hotel Hospitality Lessons Learned From Moscow, Russia
|by Doug Kennedy
January 11, 2009
As a child of the Cold War era, I can honestly say that even after Perestroika , I had never even dreamed of a day when I might visit Russia. Yet this October I found myself on a non-stop flight from JFK to SVO, the largest airport in Moscow. The occasion was to finally meet in person our new Kennedy Training Network alliance partners, Big Tree Hospitality, which is headquartered there. Having worked with Andrei Malyshev, Managing Director, and Anton Matveev, Commercial Director, through numerous conference calls and Internet meetings, I knew I would be meeting some very special fellow entrepreneurs. Beyond that, I have to admit having absolutely no idea of what to expect from the people or the place. It didn’t take much time after my arrival for me to begin to realize just how special this experience was to be.
After first traveling from MIA to JFK airport, and then running at least a 2/3 of a mile in the terminal with my 40 lb. carry on bag as I heard the PA announcer calling out “Last call for passenger Kennedy to Moscow, please report immediately” you can imagine I was more than a little relieved to find the last open storage bin and fall into my seat for the 11 hour non-stop flight. Upon arrival I quickly cleared customs to find that despite the early hour, there was my new partner Andrei right there to meet me and drive me through the 90-minute traffic jam (just like US!) directly to my city center hotel. Although we had much business to discuss, Andrei insisted that I take some time at the hotel to settle-in and relax after my long journey.
Shortly later as I was unpacking I discovered with shock that I had somehow managed to leave my laptop in the overhead bin on my flight! Can you imagine this feeling of being in a completely foreign country, preparing for a week filled with business meetings and a sold-out two-day workshop to conduct, and to finding this item missing? Needless to say I was panicked when I dialed Andrei’s mobile number to report my problem. He insisted I stay at the hotel while he drove back to SVO (90 minutes each way) to personally retrieve my computer, without sounding the slightest bit annoyed about the extra half-day in traffic. This was my first evidence that genuine, authentic hospitality is alive and well in Russia!
Several days later I found myself in front of an audience of 25+ hotel managers ranging from GM’s, CEO’s, DOS’s, to frontline sales staff and supervisors. For the first time ever I would be conducting this interactive two day workshop with a full interpreter, which I have to say I was a bit nervous about. Yet as soon as I met the first participant, a very professional young woman who’s name was Lubov, I could tell that smiles, eye contact, facial expressions, and of course gestures would allow me to carry the day. As I later learned, it turned out that Lubov had traveled more than 24 hours by railway to attend my workshop, which I am certain is the furthest by far that anyone had ever traveled to see me speak. In fact many of the participants had traveled hundreds of kilometers to share in this collective experience.
What a wonderful two days I had facilitating this workshop, which I was later told was one of the very first ever such “open enrollment” hotel industry training workshop ever conducted in Russia by private (non-academic) enterprise. I have never trained a group of participants that were more completely engaged and obviously eager to learn about how to improve themselves and their hotels.
As the workshop progressed it became evident that despite the differences in language, customs, and culture, the hotel managers there face largely the same challenges as we do here in the USA: Recruiting and selecting hospitality “talent,” communicating “the vision,” and ensuring the consistent delivery of hospitality excellence to a diversity of international visitors. As I shared the same stories I share in North America, as I conducted the same training exercises/activities, and as I fielded the participants’ questions, it was almost eerie how similar the workshop experience ended up being, other than the delay in waiting for the interpreter to re-state my words .(Impressively nearly everyone understood English, not just the 50% or more of the group that also spoke English fluently.)
But what was most moving was the personal gestures of hospitality that were extended to me by the participants during the two days. Whether it was Ludmelia walking me through the lunch buffet and helping me identify familiar foods, Natalia recommending that hotels in Egypt would also be very interested in my training, Elana and Olga volunteering to help assist with some of the activities, or Valeria, Andrew, and Demetry asking to each have a one-on-one photograph taken with me, each and every participant seemed to make the effort to connect with me in a personal way. But most of all, I shall never forget being approached by Vadim, a distinguished gentleman who was obviously one of the most experienced GM’s at the session, coming up personally to generously thank me at the end of the program and then making it a point to stand right beside me for the group photograph.
The expressions of hospitality continued after the workshop was over. Over a half dozen of the participants approached me to make sure I had company for dinner and also making sure that I was going to get to see the sights in Moscow on my one day off before heading home. When it came to being tour guides, my new alliance partners at Big Tree hospitality exceeded my expectations. Andrei, Anton, and also Maxim (who’s title is IT Director at Big Tree but who clearly understands he is in the hospitality industry) personally escorted me on a tour of The Kremlin, Red Square, The Intercessional/St. Basil Cathedral, the Historical Museum, and then ended the evening by taking me out to dinner once again this time with their charming and academically gifted wives joining us.
It is hard to express in these words how moving this experience was for this cold war baby who has now found proof of what I have believed since I was an idealistic youth in the 60’s and 70’s: That despite our cultural differences, in the end human beings worldwide are much more alike than we are different.
Here are other lessons I learned from my experience for you to share with your hospitality team at your next meeting:
"It has been, and continues to be, our responsibility to fill the earth
with the light and warmth of hospitality.”
Doug Kennedy, President
|Also See:||Hotel Hospitality Inspirations Learned From My Mentor: Howard Feiertag / Doug Kennedy / December 2009|
|Hotel Hospitality Training Tips For The Era Of Social Networking / Doug Kennedy / October 2009|
|Overcoming The "All They Want To Hear Is The Rate" Mentality / Doug Kennedy / October 2009|
|To Make Hotel Training Work, Make It Fun! / Doug Kennedy / July 2009|
|Front Desk Hotel Training Can Generate Future Business / Doug Kennedy / July 2009|
|Front Desk Training Is The Key To Capturing More Walk-In Business / June 2009|
|To Get More Bookings - Work With – Not Against Your Central Reservations Providers / Doug Kennedy / May 2009|
|Generate More Revenue By Making Training Everyone’s Job / Doug Kennedy / April 2009|
|Hotel Reservations Sales Training Tips - Circa 2009 / Doug Kennedy / March 2009|
|Is That the Best Rate You Have? - How to Train Your Voice Reservations Agents To Handle Today's Deal-Seekers / Doug Kennedy / February 2009|
|First Step In New Sales: Believe It Is Possible! / Doug Kennedy / January 2009|
|Good News Formula For RevPar in 2009 / Doug Kennedy / January 2009|
|Alluring Descriptions Are Key To Converting Hotel Reservation Callers / Doug Kennedy / November 2008|
|Bringing Out The Best from Our Most Negative Hotel Guests - Brings Out The Best In Ourselves / Doug Kennedy / October 2008|
|Profit Optimization Is Everyone's Job / Doug Kennedy / August 2008|
|Hotel Lessons Learned Growing Up In Kennedy Craft Shop / Doug Kennedy / July 2008|
|Personalized Hospitality Excellence Still A Deliverable! / Doug Kennedy / June 2008|
|Real Conversations vs Rigid Scripting Increases Reservations Productivity / Doug Kennedy / May 2008|
|Hotel Lessons Learned From A Five-Star School Principal / Doug Kennedy / April 2008|
|Road Warrior Shares Tips On How Hotel Guests Can Minimize Environmental Impact / Doug Kennedy / March 2008|
|Right-Sized Staffing Ensures Front Desk Sales & Service Success / Doug Kennedy / December 2007|