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As he prepares to open a new five-star hotel in Bratislava, Konstantin Zeuke talks to ABTN about luxury and the Kempinski experience.
Zeuke started with Kempinski in 1998 as a front office manager in Munich. But he was no stranger to the world of luxury having previously worked for Hilton, Marriott and a gamut of independent five-star hotels in Germany. Within Kempinski the German has spent time in nearly every department; from operations to reservations and revenue management, in hotels all around the world, including his native Germany and the Middle East. In 2007 the company charged him with the task of opening Slovakia's first five-star hotel - the Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras. With 98 beautifully decorated rooms, a location surrounded by breath-taking nature and boasting Kempinski's first own-branded spa (Kempinski The Spa, a bespoke concept developed for Kempinski Hotels by Resense Spa), Zeuke said the creation of luxury wasn't so hard. He describes the hotel as a "hideaway destination", with its location at 1,300m above sea level in the Tatra mountains, and the spa as "one of the best spas I've ever seen in my life". But creating luxury isn't enough. To insure a successful opening, Zeuke says he "did a lot to promote the hotel in the right markets and to position it right." And hotels need more than great amenities and a good location to be successful: "The training of the employees was a key to reaching the highest quality that we wanted to have in the country... so we invested a lot in training," says Zeuke. Now Zeuke has handed over his mountain hotel to start on his next project. Another five-star Kempinski hotel in Bratislava is scheduled to open this May, located on the Danube River. Zeuke said the property will be "very luxurious and cosy at the same time... it's not a cold hotel, it's warm, it has warm colours." This hotel will be more geared toward the business traveller. It will have 231 rooms, five business conference rooms and two ballrooms, plus wireless internet throughout the building. For relaxing, the hotel will have an 11th floor spa with swimming pool overlooking the Danube. The two restaurants, the Arte and the Riverbank Restaurant, will also have views of the Blue River. While the hotel is still in its pre-opening stage, Zeuke is kept occupied. Often, he arrives his office at 8am and does not leave before 9pm. He and his co-workers are currently trying to set up policies and procedures for the running of the hotel, as well as hire employees. They recently interviewed 400 people one by one in a single day, and hired only 70.
Even in the middle of the chaos of opening new hotels, Zeuke continues to improve his management skills by taking classes from the Reims Management School in France. He says: "We all have to grow, and we should never stop learning and studying." Kempinski sponsors "high potential" employees and general managers to take these classes. Zeuke started the programme two years ago and should graduate in December this year. His curiosity in hotel management goes back to his younger years, however. He recalls: "My first interest was of course to travel around the world; I used to travel with my parents a lot and we stayed in hotels, and I thought, I like what's happening in hotels." With the travel bug firmly taking hold, once the new Bratislava property is up and running, Zeuke is keen on new adventures. When asked if he could open a hotel anywhere, he answered New York City, without skipping a beat. "I would open a nice hotel with 200 rooms... a luxury five-star boutique hotel in a nice location. Why? Because the city never stops growing and it's a multicultural environment, and this is what I love to live in." Zeuke spends most of his spare time with his wife and three-and-a-half-year-old son. At the end of July, however, he will have another new adventure. He says proudly, "I'm expecting a second baby now."