Our destination abroad - Park Hyatt Busan

The Park Hyatt Busan is the new luxury address in the city of Busan, South Korea. Residents and travellers alike had been waiting for it: the one-year-old Park Hyatt was the first five-star hotel opening in 15 years.

Busan is worldwide known for the shipping and automotive industry but in recent years nature, historical temples and food specialties have started to attract people as well. Concurrently, Busan has been developing its infrastructures with the aim of projecting itself as a strong role player in today’s world: the Gwangan Bridge, second longest in the country and the BEXCO, Busan Exhibition and Conference centre, the Busan cinema centre are just a few of the new noticeable features of the city. “Busan is aiming at becoming a global city, as is Seoul,” said Jiyon, Park Hyatt’s marketing and communication manager.

The hotel is part of the new image Busan is portraying: it is located in Haeundae-gu, the new lively financial and commercial centre and it has a first class position, with views over the marina and the sea.It became very successful in only one year since the opening. One of the reasons is that the hotel is simply beautiful, with its curved shape, replicating the waves of the sea, and floor to ceiling windows to not miss a bit of the stunning view, a combination of nature and man-made marvels. The interior is a brainchild of the Japanese company Super Potato: “We brought the outside inside: we tried to recreate what makes Busan so special, nature and history,” Jiyon shared.

Park Hyatt Busan

Another reason? The unexpected and innovative solutions: check in located on the 30th floor, to give more privacy to the customers; a three-floors spa and swimming pool area, offering breath-taking views of the sea and the city.

Third, the great dining options including local and international cuisine specialties. “Our chef’s motto is that the only frozen thing we should use is ice cubes. Everything else is fresh,” said Jiyon. Busan is famous all over Korea for its fresh and delicious seafood. The hotel serves as an educational venue, offering luxury culinary experiences from around the world, something, which is very appreciated by the locals: “Koreans are very curious about foreign high-end culture.”

But how did the hotel manage to achieve one of the top rankings of Hyatt in terms of occupancy, revenue and positive feedback? “We had 40 staff as preopening support, specialists from all areas, who understand and know what Hyatt is all about to come and assist the team at a junior level,” said the general manager Marc von Arnim, who was in Busan already a year before the opening. “Then we had a mock trial before the opening where staff from all over the world stayed in the hotel as guests for two weeks. They were trying out different rooms and services, going through the menu and giving continuous feedback, support and guidance so when the official opening came up on February 18, 2013 we were better prepared.”

Another priority for Mr von Arnim is to take customers’ feedback seriously: “It’s the only way we can improve and indeed there has been a major improvement as we see from the feedback. Customers say staff has become friendlier, more flexible. We use an independent survey maker, which sends requests for feedback after a stay. Another tool is the so-called ‘voice of the customer’, whereby I get a report daily from all outlets. If the feedback is bad, the trick is not to react to that to the staff, they would close up and not be honest anymore. I believe in leading by example: it’s ok to make mistakes but one has to learn from them. We’ve been very lucky with our staff, they are young, passionate and dedicated: we try to get people straight from their university studies, so to train them internally and embed the Hyatt DNA in them.”

What really can turn the fortune of a hotel in Korea is a blog. Blogs may sound innocent, but in Korea bloggers have real power, the so-called “power bloggers”. There are about 6000 blogs in Korea, followed by an average of 10000 people. Korea is one of the biggest blogging countries in the world; people use blogs to freely express opinions. The recounts are very detailed and professional, often they are personalised with pictures. The more followers they have, the greater is the influence because people refer to them before making a decision. Said Jiyon: “Every single individual is a journalist in Korea nowadays it seems, so we need to satisfy their needs. We invite bloggers to stay for advertisement purposes, but many of them actually want to be paid, they are so famous in Korea.”

Mr von Arnim said: “Monitoring the blog sites, is almost a full time job. The problem is that you cannot interact with the bloggers: once their opinion is out there, you cannot change that, so we just have to do everything right. I constantly want to improve, I ask myself daily how can I exceed my customers’ expectations, how can I get more customers and how do I get them to return. I am not looking at what my competition is doing, I focus on making things better here.” 

For more information about the Park Hyatt Busan:
http://busan.park.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

For more information about Busan:
http://english.busan.go.kr/

For more information about the architect who designed the hotel:
(http://daniel-libeskind.com/projects/haeundae-udong-hyundai-ipark/images)

For the interior:
(http://www.superpotato.jp/en/works/park-hyatt-busan)


Marc Von Arnim - General Manager of Park Hyatt Busan
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