Pavel Jindra, new Marriott Moscow Tverskaya general manager — interview for WSJ

We have met Pavel Jindra, new Marriott Moscow Tverskaya general manager and discussed his career in hotel business.

Pavel, how many years have you been working in hotel business?

Well, now it’s been 21 years, already, in 1994 I was in military service for one year and as of 1995 I started to work in hotel business in Hilton Prague.

Was it Czech army?

Yes, it was Czech army, just 1 year. And I think it’s not a waste of time. You’re away from your home, you learn about the courage, about friendship, about discipline, about trusting people. I still remember these days.

Does it help you to manage people?

Yes, I think so, this experience was very useful. Actually I started to learn how to manage people because I was in charge of the kitchen. So I was doing the accounting, purchasing, I was doing the financial reports every month. I was checking the menu, the cost in the kitchen. It was like my small management position already – that time in army.

How did you earn your first dollar or euro or krone ?

(Laughing) I think it was in the hotel school. We worked in some big events in hotels. I always had at least one month of practice every year. When I was thinking where to study I knew definitely that I like culinary and communication with people. So I decided to go to the hotel school. And only there I realized I want to work in hotel business. After the army when I came to the Hilton it was for sure, I knew this is correct for me and this is my future. So that’s the start of my career.

So, the whole life you have been working in hotel business or some?

Well, I had just little break. It was a project in Bratislava – a luxury complex with apartments and restaurants. Our clients were ambassadors, top managers, etc. The project was quite interesting, but after that again I went back to the hotel business.

Tell us about your childhood. Whom did you dream to become when you were a child?

My parents always supported me and gave me a lot of freedom. When I decided to go to hotel school they supported me in my decision.

To be honest I never dreamed to be a cosmonaut or president or policeman, nothing like this. Actually, I played football and wanted to be a football player and play in a national team.

So, you prefer team games?

I’m a team player definitely. I don’t like to do anything alone – for example to play tennis or chess. I was always doing team sports — football, basketball, handball, ice hockey… It was always team sports. And the same now, I like to work in a team with people.

How have you come to Marriott?

Well, I said that I started in Hilton, so was working for 12 years with Hilton where I spend most of my career. After that I worked 4 years for Kempinski — the oldest European hotel chain. When I was looking for the next job opportunity my old good friend from Hilton Prague was opening the Marriott in Astana and invited me to work in the opening team and I immediately agreed. 2 years I spent in Astana and now more than 1 year I’m with Marriott in Moscow.

You used to move many times in your career (Czech Republic, Australia, Maldives, China, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, and now Russia). Did your family move with you? Do they accept this lifestyle?

I was single when started my career. So in Australia or Maldives I didn’t have any problems. Since my work in China I travel together with my wife and now also with my little daughter. Usually I come to the new destination alone and for the first 3-4 months I arrange the apartment, try to understand the city, the culture in general and then my family joins me. I’m happy that my wife understands everything and supports me.

How old are your kids?

I have one daughter. She is almost 5 in next year in February. She was going to local kindergarten in Astana and she is also going here to the Russian kindergarten. So she is now studying Russian, she can speak quite well already and sometimes is teaching us the new words which she learnt. One of the benefits of traveling is that you learn the languages.

Where do you live in Moscow? 

It’s the apartment next to Prospect Mira close to the metro station and bus stop. It’s up to 30 minutes walk to Red Square.

What do you think about Moscow and Russia?

I was studying Russian language, culture and history at school and was always dreaming to visit Moscow to see nice historical center. When we came here I realized that it’s quite easy to understand the city because many things are very similar to Prague: navigation in the metro, signs in the streets, food in the restaurants. I understand the language, so it all made our life easy. It was different in China or Kuwait.

Let’s talk about business. Pavel, what do you think, what kind of global changes have happened to hotel industry in the past 2 decades?

First of all — the Internet, it made everything incredibly simple now. When I started there were almost no computers, may be just one at the reception desk. I still remember when we were coming in the kitchen with the hand written notes to give them to the chef to say this is the order. So I think the computers and the mobile phones have changed the industry.

What is the difference of Moscow Marriott Hotels and others Marriotts in the world? 

Marriott hotels are successful because they provide the same high level of service everywhere in the world. The difference can be in design of the building but in terms of the product that we offer to guests — good night sleep, good breakfast, good service – it’s all the same. We have strict standards and procedures and the power of brand is really based on the quality of service we provide to guests. The guest feels the same if he comes to Marriott in Moscow or in any other country.

What are the key selling points of Marriott Tverskaya hotel?

First of all we have a very good location on Tverskaya street — the main street of Moscow close to the Aeroexpress Station to Sheremetyevo airport, close to Belorusskaya metro station. We have an excellent hotel team which provides high quality service to our guests. The hotel is not big, it’s a classic boutique hotel with a cozy atmosphere where people like to come back and recommend to their colleagues or friends.

Pavel, you have declared that your plan is increasing performance and reaching the maximum financial results. How are you gonna do that?

Obviously we have to provide the quality service and keep the standards on the highest possible level. In our company it’s very important to take care of the employees because if we make the employees happy they will make the guest happy. To have good financial results we need to manage the cost and sell for the right price – high but still interesting for the guest, to select the right clients for high and low seasons, for week days and weekends.

What’s nationality status of your clients? Does they come for business or travel?

We have 50% to 50% between the Russian people and the other nationalities — mainly people from America, France, Germany, Italy. We are also seeing some good number from Japan coming as well as increase from China.

We are mainly business hotel; our guests are mainly the corporate travelers for weekdays. Also we try to be attractive for the individual travelers and small groups, for example create special packages and offers for weekends.

What’s average age of your clients it this hotel?

Currently around 40-45 approximately I think. However now Marriott is focusing on the generation “X”. Young people using the modern gadgets and enjoy modern services are our potential clients. In Marriott we have mobile check-in, soon there will also be chance to open your room with your mobile phone, when you go from the airport you can communicate through the application for some additional services.

Do you see any influence of crisis in your business?

Not anymore, may be 2 years ago we all felt it, not today. Everybody manage to live with it, is the same for us, our clients or suppliers.

Is the market growing?

I think the business is growing. Slowly but growing. We see good results in 2016 and hope for better results this year.

What do you think about Russian and Czech mentality? Are they similar? Does it help you to work with Russians?

For me it’s not such a big difference or surprise and I think the mentality is very similar. And of course it helps in my work here in Russia. Our countries always had very good relationships, very strong connections. I think Prague is one of the most popular destinations for Russians. Russian people are very proud of their country, they know where they come from, they know the history.

Pavel do you have a hobby?

I wish to have more hobbies and do more sports but it’s not always possible when you work in hotel business. I like to travel, it always interesting to learn about different countries, different nationalities, the habits of people. And I always try the national cuisine.

How do you like Russian cuisine?

There are a lot of nice soups: borsch, solyanka, etc. I like soup very much. I like pelmeni and vareniki.

When I’m missing my national food I always go to the Czech house where I can always have my favorite dishes – veprevo koleno, duck, schnitzel cooked by Czech Chef with original Czech beer.

Pavel, do you usually make friends in that cities you work?

It’s not nice to be alone so we try to find friends first of all within the community. It’s always nice when you communicate with people who understand your jokes; you have a common history, you can talk about movies, what’s happening in the country. Obviously it’s good for the kids as they can speak to each other and also for us to practice our language.

I was surprised how many Czech companies work here in Russia. There are beer restaurants, for example Pilsner, Gambrinus or Staropramen not far from here. There a lot of companies in a Czech House and Slovak House, both nearby.

Do you like the movie the Grand Budapest hotel? Is your job as fun?

I like the movie but our job is not so funny (laughing). We are working in real world and we have to follow the real rules and I think this movie is about the hotel business but it’s a comedy. But would be nice actually if we had so much fun.

How can you manage to stay so fit and active?

I try to sleep a lot even though is difficult with a little kid. And I select good food and don’t eat too much, also I walk a lot. We love to go walking with my wife together. We also drive scooter in Moscow parks – Sokolniki, Gorky Park, VDNH.

Thank you, Pavel!

Interview by Anton Nesgovorov, White Square Group CEO

Visit Moscow Marriott Tverskaya Website

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