Hotel Builders Cross of Merit – who brought oriental comfort to Budapest


The hotel building boom faded away in Budapest, due to the recession, however, there are a few people who see potential in the hotel business even today. For instance, there are two Arab businessmen who also consider themselves Hungarians; they say that uniqueness is crisis-proof. Sameer Hamdan and Zuhair Awad, owners of Mellow Mood Group, were recently awarded the Golden Cross of Merit of Hungary, proposed by the prime minister. 

The true American Dream — in Hungary. The Palestinian Sameer Hamdan and Zuhair Awad came from Jordan and found a real home in Hungary. They started from scratch and created today’s fastest growing hotel group, the Mellow Mood Group, which also based other hotel companies.

In 2012 not only one, but also two dreams came true for Sameer Hamdan, who came to study at the University of Economics, and for Zuhair Awad who gained dental technologist qualification in our country. Their friendship goes back to 1986 – as Zuhair Awad describes, a brother-like relation – which traced out a mutual path for them in business life as well. As Sameer Hamdan made his extra income in youth tourism during his years of university studies in the beginning of the ’90s, the two friends decided try their luck in the hotel industry in 1997. The Mellow Mood Group started with three co-founders, and made their entry to the hotel business with a renovated youth hostel, Diák Sportszálló that they rented in Dózsa György Street. After that, the two friends made a rental agreement for the three star Fortuna Hotel in Gyáli Street, and also founded the Baross Hotel Kft, and started their first own developed hotel with the same name, gaining a foothold in the three star segment as well. These achievements were followed by the Marco Polo Top Hostel, the three-star Star City Hotel in István Street and additionally they bought a building in Csokonai Street where they renovated and opened their first four-star, the Atrium Fashion Hotel in 2007.

At this point, the two businessmen feel opportune to mention; at the continuously growing Mellow Mood, a vast professional experience has been accumulated, which contributed to the success of three different hotels and hotel chains in Budapest through those who left the company during the years. The majority of our foundation is still with us, the young team became experienced, and thus we could continue our expansion despite the recession. We believe in one another, therefore we discuss our ideas with the management before strategic decisions – adds Zuhair Awad, introducing us to the unique deciding mechanism of the company; the two owners build upon the collective wisdom, practically they disclaim the right of direct decision. This power is delegated to the five-member syndicate — to avoid vote parity — which holds a meeting every two weeks. Judit Blandl General Manager and Márta Berta Property Portfolio Manager are the two additional constant members, while the fifth chair is reserved for the leader of the relevant specialty.

As a result of natural development, the company is more than a hotel owner and operating enterprise. They built a portfolio that comprehends not only hotels, but also restaurant, offices and branch banks. Approaching from the outskirts, selling the Gyáli Street property and the Max City share in Büdaörs, they expanded in downtown deliberately. Today, they own several hotels starting from Vörömarty square area: La Cucina restaurant Váci street 20, Promenade City Hotel Váci street 22, La Prima Fashion Hotel on the corner of Váci street – Pesti Barnabás street, Cosmo Fashion Hotel Váci street 77. and the recently opened Estilo Fashion Hotel Váci street 83.

During the recession we dared to make investments, because the demand for our uniquely designed, trendy, cozy hotels amongst the young and businessmen hasn’t decreased. Furthermore, these houses have maximum a hundred rooms, without large restaurants, therefore they operate effectively – analyses Sameer Hamdan. His partner, Zuhair Awad highlights that in the beginning, when they offered accommodation to the people arriving to the Eastern Station, other than the students, there were those who needed the higher categories. That was the reason they created their travel agency, and they decided then, to conquer the five star segment — the top of their profession — while they open houses in every corner of the Budapest-Vienna-Prague triangle. Well, the second part of the dream is soon to become true: La prima Fashion Hotel Vienna is about to be opened— the scene of the second celebration. From a sales perspective, their one and a half decade experience in the field of internet reservation systems is going to get a big role, just like the fact that they reserved the rights of about 250 well-sounding domain names. The ones related to hospitality, they still run and develop, others they have sold. As a result, more than 60% of their guests are reserving through e-channels.

We already think of ourselves as Hungarians too — say the two businessmen— We believe in the country that took us in, where we are happy, and in spite of the Malév bankruptcy, we believe in the touristic attraction of Budapest. Therefore we made significant investments during the 17 years, and while there are only five new hotel openings in town this year, three of them are Mellow Mood interests, which will incorporate 14 hotels. The soon to be opened Mirage Fashion Hotel will already be the first step into the future, since the enterprise — which has been offered operation contracts from Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — wants to emphasize its operating experience and franchising more.

Based on their experience, the two businessmen affirm as one: Hungarians can often do better than they think they are capable of. The 99% Hungarian employee team is living proof of this statement, also about 80% of the materials and furnishings used in the hotels are domestic products. When we said that we are going to open a hotel in Vienna, many reacted like: „That’s something!” on the contrary, we think that opening a hotel in Budapest is equally a great achievement — for them, that goes without saying.

Source: Az utazó