Unique View of Moscow's Historic Skyline
- By Mark H. Gay
- Oct. 01 2014 00:00
After four years in Berlin, Oliver Eller has returned to Moscow as General Manager of the Hotel Baltschug Kempinski and Kempinski Area Director of Russia. Back In 2007 he launched another luxury hotel in Moscow. He told Mark Gay about his feelings upon his return.
Oliver Eller: It's wonderful to be back in Moscow. I lived here for five years, made many business partners and friends, and married a Russian lady.
It truly has been a great opportunity to have had the chance to open the Ritz-Carlton on Tverskaya street several years ago, with a view of the Kremlin from one side, and now to be standing here on the terrace of the Baltschug and look back in the other direction onto St. Basil's Cathedral and Red Square. I think we have a matchless view!
This was the first international luxury hotel in the heart of Moscow. How does transport accessibility influence the type of guest today?
Every Muscovite is a potential guest for the Baltschug. How you arrive does not matter, whether you come to have a cup of coffee or to book 10 rooms for 10 nights. You get the same heartfelt, warm welcome.
Having said that the next metro station is 10 minutes away on Pyatnitskaya ulitsa, which has just been renovated and it is a beautiful street. It is lively, there are cafés, bars and restaurants and it is a street where you want to walk. It's nice, in a city of so many millions of people, to have a walking district nearby that is safe and attractive.
What can you do to lure the wealthy independent travelers who are still quite rare in Moscow?
Although the company is growing, Kempinski never wants to manage more hotels than the companies' age and we were founded in 1897. That's because we believe luxury is limited. If it is for everybody it is no longer luxury.
Standing on the Library terrace at the Baltschug Kempinski, the location and the view is my unique selling point as a weekend hideaway. We don't sell just food, beverages and beds; what we sell is an experience. We want every guest when he leaves to say, "wow, that was different". What makes a difference is exquisite, personalized service. We have ladies and gentlemen who have worked here for 20 years. That says a lot about the management of the company, about knowing your clients and about fulfilling guests' wishes before they have been announced. This goes back to what I said about selling an experience. We invite every Muscovite, every guest around the world, to try the Hotel Baltschug.
How does each hotel capture the character of a city while still being part of the Kempinski Group?
We are not a chain in which each element is equal. We are a group of individuals. There are very successful chains of popular restaurants that are the same everywhere. We believe our guests like the individual touch. When they visit Moscow they want to feel Moscow. If I wake up at the Çırağan Palace Kempinski I know I am in Istanbul. If I wake up in the Emirates Palace, I know I am in Abu Dhabi and at the Adlon Kempinski I can only be in Berlin. We have flagship properties all around the world that give you a true sense of place.
But as a Swiss group, surely there is a character?
I hold a German passport but that doesn't mean I'm just German. I'm a human being who was born in Germany. I have lived all around the globe. On the other hand, many famous luxury brands — Gucci, Hermes, Chanel, Dior, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche — are European. And we believe that Kempinski is the oldest luxury hotel company in Europe. That's what we stand for.
People must ask you about the timing of your return to Moscow. Is it a good time?
Everyone asks that! I believe the opportunities are great now, especially in business. I also think that whomever you meet now, whatever relationships you build, they might prove to be more sustainable.
I have lived every five years in a different country and managed hotels around the world. I truly feel that Moscow is not just the biggest European capital. It is an international city that is full of opportunities and full of life. It's a great place to do business and it is a great weekend hideaway.
How will you measure success?
I personally will be measured not by what I may have done 10 years ago. The only fair measurement is to compare me and the Baltschug Kempinski to the competitive set in town.
If you take that into consideration, I can promise you that the Baltschug is going to more than compete because as they say, with every great building you need a strong foundation and we have that: we have the oldest European hotel group, an unbelievable location and tremendous staff.