The Courtyard by Marriott hotel, located in the heart of Moscow, has been open for just a year. Nevertheless, this is the flagship hotel of the Russian Marriott franchise and has already become its most successful hotel. Lenta.ru met with Guy Godet, the General Manager of the hotel and talked to him about the hospitality industry, the economic downturn and the obsessions Russians have about always looking their best.
Lenta.ru: The hotel has been open for a year. What changes did it go through over this period?
Godet: The good news is we are constantly developing, we've been increasing our market share month on month. This is how we judge the success of our business.
What is your market share?
The Moscow market can be compared to a massive pie. Someone has a large piece of the pie; someone has to settle for a smaller piece. When you’re entering a new market you either have a tiny piece or nothing at all. As you grow and develop, your piece gets bigger – you secure a larger market share. This is the primary measure of success.
Did the economic downturn have any consequences for your business?
No, we weren’t affected by the recession, as we didn’t have anything before it began. That’s our advantage over other hotels. Of course it was tough. But it’s easier to launch when the market is strong, demand is high and people will come to you.
Did the political situation affect your business?
No, absolutely not. Over half of our clients are Russians.
Do you have any figures regarding your numbers of Asian guests? What’s the ratio to Europeans?
After Russians, our second largest nationality is American – after all, we are located next to the US Embassy – then Europeans are third. The ratio of Europeans to Russians often depends on the time of year – we get a lot of domestic tourists in the summer season. At the same time, our number of clients from the West is growing. Moreover, we recently became the first Marriott hotel to receive the China-friendly certificate.
You’ve worked all over the globe. Were there any difficulties you encountered working here in Russia?
No. I think it depends on how mentally prepared you are. Of course, there are differences and it’s not always easy to overcome them. For example, when arriving in a country you’ve never been to before, you start judging it based on your own culture, education and religion. As far as I’m concerned, I believe no one is wrong and no one is guilty. I learned not to judge others, although I may have done when I was younger. I put people into rigid pigeonholes, and that’s a bad thing, as I closed a lot of doors this way.
There are people who build walls, and there are people who cut windows into them. I’m more of a “window” person. When you’re considering another country, the first task is understanding; tolerance and acceptance. It may sometimes go against your own preferences, but that’s what it is – a matter of taste. When you’re mentally ready, moving to another country is not that difficult. The most important thing is to understand how this country works. As soon as you get that, you become part of it.
There’s a good saying in Russia: “You don’t bring your own samovar when visiting someone,” – a spin on the “Do as the Romans do” principle. It’s true. If you try to go against the flow, most often you get nowhere. If you are successful, you make a lot of enemies on the way. You definitely won’t make any friends, at the very least.
Do you have a memorable story about Russian culture you’d like to share?
Russia has excellent chefs. People here know how to cook. I was very surprised when I found it out. The quality of food was exceptional. I’m not talking just about the restaurant in my hotel, but other establishments as well. But if I have to grade the quality of service, I’d give say “could be better.” Here in Russia people accept the service the way it is. But the food – served from small cafes to hotel restaurants and just restaurants in general – outclasses the food served in many places, even in France.
In France people do like to cook and know how to do it, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get good food everywhere you go. Over the last 25 years the country has gone through many changes. When I come back I can try even just a sandwich and realise that it’s not as tasty as it was before. There is no guarantee that the restaurant you’re at will have good food.
Here in Moscow, the food is good, great or exceptional, regardless of where I'm eating. I mostly talk about Moscow since I’ve yet to visit any other cities. There’s another thing I like about Moscow: people dress really well here. Men and women alike. They know how to present themselves. The job interviews that I conducted illustrated that point perfectly. Only a handful of the applicants came in dressed casually.