He started his interesting career in the hospitality industry as a young chef in a hotel in Malmo, Sweden. Working his way up through the Food & Beverage department in the Hilton hotel he continued building a successful career on top management level in the Radisson.
Thanks to his hard work and constant effort, trainings and courses he attended combined with opportunities to grow offered by Rezidor HotelGroup, he was promoted to general manager position in Park Inn Hotel in Cardiff, UK.
In October 2010 he welcomed new opportunity to lead 2 Rezidor hotels in Bratislava. Let us introduce Niklas Jonsson.
Niklas´s career in hospitality started in very early age: ´My father was in hospitality, I essentially grew up in the hotels. Actually, I was born in a different city than my parents are from, due to the fact that my father moved to manage hotels in different cities. When I was young, I was very attracted by the kitchen area, it was very exciting place for me. I was 6 years old when I made the decision to become a chef. And that was how my career in hospitality started.´
When Niklas was still at school, his family opened a restaurant, so he spent all of his free time working there. After that he had an opportunity to work in various independent restaurants for about ten years, until he made a life changing decision: ´I realized that it is physically impossible to do this until I´m 65, it is too hard for your body. Kitchen is also a very stressful environment, so the job is difficult physically and also mentally. That time I was on the level of the head chef and I realized that I can’t go any higher. I wanted to stay in the industry but work out of the kitchen.´
After this turning point, Niklas took a job in the regional hotel chain Scandic Hotels, the biggest hotel chain in the Nordic region. He started there as a chef and climbed his way up quickly to become a head chef in only year and a half. That time Hilton group bought the company and converted two of the prime properties to Hilton hotels: ´The hotel I worked in, in Malmo, was one of those hotels. We changed all operating standards to a much higher level and there were massive investments to the hotel as well. I became the executive chef there. I was working at this position for about year until I was offered to extend my responsibilities and manage the restaurants as well. That time I was very involved in creating brand new restaurant concepts for the new Hilton hotel. So at the same time I was working as restaurant manager and executive chef for about 8 months until I decided to move on to start working for Radisson.´
Niklas Jonsson continued to build his career in the Radisson as Food & Beverage Manager in charge of not only kitchen and restaurant, but everything that included Food & Beverage department such as room service, banquets and conferences. After 3 years he joined Rezidor programme for general managers. From Malmo he moved to Cardiff, UK to take his first general manager position. After spending 3 years in England he accepted a new challenge and was transferred to Bratislava.
Niklas recommends Rezidor for ambitious employees: ´Rezidorhas the philosophy of growing from the inside, not only for general management level. We have a management development program to find talent and potential in our employees and to develop them to the future managers. After that program they can stay in the property and go to the manager level or be transferred to the other property, if there is an opportunity. 95% of Rezidorgeneral managers are home grown. This is very unusual and not typical for hotel companies. Rezidoris very focused to develop people, help them grow and move on in the group. There are not many companies like that.
I think that I am a good example as well. I don’t have a university degree, only chef college. But I got a lot of internal training and education. I used to study at Cornell University during summer too. You have to be the driving force yourself but company can give you the tools and the right opportunities to become a manager.´
Niklas Jonsson came to our capital city last October: ´I am spending most of the time in the hotels. I also have my family here with me and we really enjoy staying here. We are happier here than we were in UK. I think Bratislava is a beautiful city and it has a lot of potential.´
Niklas Jonsson admits that the hotel market in Bratislava is very difficult now: ´The market is slowly recovering, but it is still a very challenging market. I think there are more opportunities for tourism in Bratislava. A lot can be done for every segment. And it has to be done by Bratislava or Slovakia. Bratislava is not very known in the world, it is not an established tourist destination.
Part of the challenge is to get out of the shadow of Vienna. You can see a lot of tourists from Vienna here in the city. They c0ome by bus, have a guided tour and then go back to Vienna. It is not good for Bratislava. We want people to stay here, use the shopping centres, restaurants, bars, etc. I believe that the process has started, that the destination marketing organization will have the place here. Hotels want to help, because we can. There are many international hotels here, which obviously have useful experiences from other cities.
When it comes to MICE, there is no convention centre to host big international conferences. We could also promote the destination at many international fairs, but it is not being done. For every MICE organization the key is to communicate with one person to organize everything. Again, it is not emplaced here. If I would be representing an agency or a company organizing a conference for 2000 people, there is nobody I can contact to manage this. I have to contact hotels myself, the potential place to host it, transportation, everything. You have to have one organization for Bratislava, or Slovakia to arrange that.
Carrier in hospitality
Building a successful carrier in hospitality is not for everyone. As Niklas Jonsson says as well: ´It requires a specific character to do this job. The way to success is to be very dedicated, very outgoing and good organizer. But I believe that it is not a job, it is a lifestyle. I love it, it is more than a job to me. It takes a lot of time too. And if you are not passionate about it, if you don’t love it and don’t see it as your life, you would not do it. If you have the ambition to work 40 hours a week, it is not the job for you. It is also very dynamic work. I think that the beauty of this industry is that no day is like the other. It is always a big change.
Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel **** and Park Inn Danube Hotel ****
The general manager position in Bratislava includes managing 2 Rezidor hotels – Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel **** and Park Inn Danube Hotel ****. Niklas Jonsson explains the differences between these 2 brands: ´The main difference between Radisson Blu and Park Inn is that Park Inn is in upper middle market and Radisson Blu is in upper market. We attract different markets here. We are trying to be the best in both markets and be different from other competitors.
When you come to Radisson Blu hotel, you know you are in the Radisson Blu. It doesn´t mean, that every Radisson Blu hotel is the same. But there are elements which help the guests to recognize where they are. The hotels in the Radisson Blu brand are in general very individual. This is the difference between us and our competitors. Their hotels look very similar.
Park Inn is something different. It’s more about the basic needs. Park Inn is trying to be the modern solution, more colourful, different by the people working in the hotel, providing the different kind of services.´
There are certain elements that an international hotel has to have to be successful on the market. As Niklas Jonsson continues: ´Look at all the international hotels. We are very similar in our offering. We have the loyalty program etc. From the global prospect it is also leverage when you are covering important areas in the world. We have to be big enough to be attractive for big global accounts and we have to build a positive image on both global and local markets.
And also you have to have very good product. The main focus is on the guest services. It is not about the hardware, it is about people. All the international hotels have nice products, so it all comes down to the people in the hotel, meaning the team, the organization, how well are they prepared.
And this is what we as the company do. We focus on how well we prepare our people, how much training we supply, what tools we give them to be successful.
And in the end it all comes down to expectations. We are not selling beds, we are selling experiences. This is a big difference. We have to focus on how people feel when they come to the hotel, how positive is their interaction with our staff. That is what makes a hotel successful or not successful.