“Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals”, a weekly interview series with professionals from the MICE industry in New York. This week we are very happy to showcase a member of our industry – but from an international perspective.
These are uncertain times for our industry – yet we believe that now is the moment to bring our industry closer together by strengthening our ties and relationships on a more human level. It is for this reason that Shackman Associates is undertaking a series of interviews with other hospitality professionals to learn how they are managing during this time.
In this episode of Insight; New York Hospitality Professionals Karen Shackman, President and CEO of Shackman Associates interviews Yves-Marie Origlia, Sales Manager at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Berlin, Germany.
Karen: Hello Yves-Marie, I am so glad to reconnect here after our initial meeting at IBTM in Barcelona. In the short few months since that time, it is hard to comprehend the radical changes affecting our industry.
Karen: I am so glad you made yourself available for this interview. Now that our focus has shifted to the reopening of New York, I think it is important for us to understand how other destinations are doing, and how they are approaching the challenges of the “new normal” and what that means to our industry. Yves-Marie, please introduce yourself.
Yves-Marie: Thank you Karen, it is indeed nice to reconnect. I have now been working for Hyatt for a bit more than 5 years, from operations to global sales in Paris. Hyatt then gave me the opportunity to move to Berlin, Germany and join the Grand Hyatt Berlin's team last year in January. From the City of Lights to the most dynamic capital city in Europe. I took the chance and I am now in charge of MICE for the North American market. By the way, did I tell you that our perfect residential group fit is 150/250 guests?
Karen: That is good to know and to share with our readers. What is your current situation in Berlin?
Yves-Marie: The lockdown is finished here in Germany! We were one of the first countries in Europe to do so. It means we can now travel all over this beautiful country again and even enjoy the amazing museums, historic landmarks, vibrant restaurants and bars of Berlin! Things are definitely moving in a positive direction. Everything is being done to ensure the safety of the population. I also wanted to add that with the Hyatt Catering service we provide, our guests can enjoy those locations in an exclusive way with the high-end refined F&B quality of Hyatt.
Karen: I know Berlin is a very forward-thinking city. Was there a difference in what Berlin was doing as compared to elsewhere in Germany?
Yves-Marie: Berlin did, does and will always do things differently from the rest of Germany! It was one of the first cities to reopen. Here, we live again fully as everything is open and we can move around freely. The lockdown was never as severe as in other parts of Germany or Europe. All the 9 Hyatt hotels of Germany are also open now. After Berlin, you can continue touring around Germany in Hamburg or Munich. Or do a Rhine river cruise from Düsseldorf to Mainz, through Cologne and Frankfurt. Everyone is excited to welcome guests again.
Karen: Has the Grand Hyatt closed temporarily?
Yves-Marie: Hyatt's credo "We care for people so they can be their best" is not only a credo but a real mindset. For this reason we decided to close for 8 weeks before reopening on the 20th of May when all would be put in place for the safety of both our employees and faithful guests. For the moment, we have reopened our VOX restaurant, some floors of guest rooms, the gym and the rooftop terrace and, as of May 25, we are now permitted to organize meetings of up to 50 guests! We will go step by step towards a full and fully safe reopening in the next few weeks.
Karen: I am sure it feels great to reopen your doors to travelers, even on a limited basis at this time. How do you organize your personal daily routine these days?
Yves-Marie: I always start the day with a workout as I want to stay fresh and fit. It is important to have a daily routine. I realize this all the more because it is the first time in almost a year and a half that I actually have one (the travels and the thrilling hotel life, you know what I mean!). Having plenty of time at the moment, I enjoy the richness of Berlin, its museums and traces of the past. I have also discovered German cooking and I introduced local friends to French cuisine. And on the weekends, thanks to the great weather, I ride my bike and explore wonderful Berlin and its fantastic surroundings. Did you know that the state of Berlin has more surface water in percentage, with all its swimmable lakes, than Venice in Italy? I keep thinking of the incentive possibilities...
Karen: It seems your mind is continually looking working on opportunities! Is your new work routine the same as Pre-Covid?
Yves-Marie: The rhythm has changed, that is for sure. But it gives me time for myself which is a luxury in today’s world. I am looking forward to including some international travel as well and hope I will be able to fly back to the States again very soon!
Karen: How do you connect with your team now?
Yves-Marie: We keep in touch regularly as it is the first time we do not connect on a daily basis. And I must say we all miss each other... We are actually meeting for a live drink on one of Berlin’s most famous rooftops: Klunkerkranich. Indeed, virtual contact does not replace everything. Can’t wait!
Karen: I am sure you will have a joyous reunion. There is nothing like live connection. What do you find the most difficult about the change in your work situation?
Yves-Marie: Most of all, we miss the interactions with the guests. Over the years, I have developed a strong relationship with clients and partners who I now consider as friends. I can’t wait to travel again, share experiences and moments and reunite. I am quite positive MICE will come back as people need to gather. Although digital technology is an interesting temporary solution, there is no doubt they will want to meet again.
Karen: Are you still dealing with cancelations, rebooking?
Yves-Marie: I was lucky that almost all the cancellations we had turned out to be rebookings for 2021. I am very positive for the end of the year and especially for 2021. In the past few days, we have received several new requests and confirmations. I have actually just confirmed a mid-sized group from the USA for January 2021. It is an amazing sign of recovery and great motivation!
Karen: Do you have a COVID-19 policy in place to outline what the property is doing to protect your guests? Are you willing to share this with us or share a link to more details?
Yves-Marie: I am really proud to see that Hyatt was one of the first hotel chains to share its guidelines through a Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment for all hotels worldwide. Hyatt is continuing to develop new work procedures and mandatory training in an effort to ensure safety for colleagues and guests and has even introduced a GBAC STARTM accreditation to go further in the process. Initiatives can also be taken by the hotels themselves. For example, at the Grand Hyatt Berlin, we are working on a video, similar to the health and safety instructions in the planes to present the guest’s new environment. You can visit the following page to read more about what Hyatt has implemented worldwide: www.hyatt.com/en-US/info/global-care-and-cleanliness-commitment .
Karen: Is there a fun anecdote you would like to share about the hotel?
Yves-Marie: Difficult question, there are so many things to tell about the Grand Hyatt Berlin. Indeed, as the hotel was built right after the reunification of Germany on the Potsdamer Platz, it is in complete continuity with the city of Berlin itself. Its central location, 5 minutes walking distance from the Brandenburg Gate, the location of the famous Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” or 10 minutes from Checkpoint Charlie, make it right at the center of one of the most lively cities in the world! I would say that the great thing about the Potsdamer Platz, is that it was built as the largest art center in the world, we have the chance to receive international shows just next door, such as Cirque du Soleil or Magic Mike.
Karen: What were your three personal essentials at home to get through this?
My cooking book
The combo laptop / wifi
My sweet balcony and its palette sofa!
Karen: And what are you doing from a wellbeing, mental health perspective?
Yves-Marie: I usually am a very positive person. When I am down or cannot think anymore, as surprising as it sounds, I love doing the puzzles of a local Berlin artist while listening to an audiobook. It helps me think through and organize my thoughts. Berlin has never really been confined so I did not have to go through what some of the readers, partners or friends and family have experienced or are still experiencing. I am also exercising and getting some fresh air in regularly to let the steam out and the sunshine in!
Karen: “Letting the sunshine in” is a great perspective during this time. Are you watching any series or reading anything which you find compelling?
Yves-Marie: In terms of series, “Babylon Berlin”, a dark but addictive thriller set in the Berlin of the Roaring Twenties. A great production and an amazing way to see the city as it was. I am also reading “State of Union” by Douglas Kennedy.
But the thing I am most proud of during this confinement was the video clip I took part in, from my former choir in Paris where we sing Crazy in Love, a capella and at home! It gives such a boost of energy! See for yourself and try to find me: https://youtu.be/Qy62qNHme8Y
Karen: I will definitely check that out. It sounds great fun. Once all travel restrictions have eased, what is top of your list to visit?
Yves-Marie: France! To be able to finally celebrate my 30th birthday with my family and old-time friends!
Karen: Well, I certainly hope you get to celebrate your birthday in France sooner rather than later. Thank you Yves-Marie, I appreciate you sharing your personal perspective and I hope we will meet again soon in person at one of the great industry trade shows.