A total of five hotels are expected to open in Budapest in 2012, three of which will be operated by a single company, Mellow Mood Hotels. The flagship of the investment is the Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace, the company’s first five-star house. The first hotel in Vienna, Mellow Mood Hotels, will soon open, ending a period of extensive development. On this occasion, we talked to the two managing directors of the company, Sameer Hamdan and Zuhair Awad.
The two Jordanian-born businessmen who originally came to Budapest to start a business founded a youth hostel in 1997, which has now grown into one of Hungary’s leading hotel companies. In addition to serving the needs of backpackers, they have followed a determined strategy to increase the quality of their offerings over the years, creating an increasingly strong portfolio in the four-star segment. Currently 10 hotels and youth hostels are operating in Budapest. And with this year’s opening, they are desperate for the five-star category and abroad. They are proud of the fact that they are creating new jobs even during the crisis, and they are already employing a total of 600 people since July.
Opening in early May, the Buddha-Bar Hotel Budapest Klotild Palace will be the first five-star hotel of Mellow Mood Hotels, expected to be a miracle from around the world. Originally designed to open in 2010, the hotel is completely unique in style and located in the historic building of Klotild Palace. This also poses a serious challenge, as the renovation had to pay attention to the preservation of the monuments. However, the tight frame gives the extra surprise. Offering a total of 102 rooms, including 27 luxury suites, this 5-star hotel in Budapest will feature contemporary, modern Asian-colonial interior design and a East-West meeting. Rooms with individually designed furniture will vary in size and layout due to the characteristics of the building.
The rooms feature interactive multimedia LED TV with high-definition IP TV systems, a built-in media connection center, wireless Internet access and an intelligent guest information system. A walk-in shower, a double-drawer minibar are included in each room, and some bathrooms feature a giant square bathtub and double sink. The hotel has three sectional halls and a -1. On the 1st floor, a multifunctional hall serves events and relaxation is provided by the more than 200 square meters Buddhattitude Spa. The hotel restaurant is decorated with a giant Buddha statue and offers a blend of special ingredients and spices typical of Pan-Asian cuisine with a drop of Western influence. The Buddha-Bar restaurant and lobby bar, the Siddharta Café serving breakfast, and the exclusive Klotild Bar & Lounge offer unique experiences. The hotel will also have a large terrace on Snake Street. The 450m 2 VIP suite with a separate elevator, a private kitchen and its own 150 m2 office is a real specialty.
The suite, which meets all security standards, is recommended for senior diplomats and true VIP guests. Guests arriving by limousine from the airport to the hotel are welcomed with Buddha-Bar music in the car.
The other hotel of the company, also opening in May, will be the four-star Estilo Fashion Hotel on Váci u. 83-in. There will also be a restaurant in the cheerful house.
The chain’s third house, Mirage Fashion Hotel, will open in June at Heroes ‘Square on Dózsa György Street, and will also be a four-star design hotel with a unique café and terrace facing Heroes’ Square.
– There are many tourist groups out there, and there hasn’t been much in the area so far. In the first round, we will create a terrace for 80 people, but this can be expanded inside the site – says Zuhair Awad, and then immediately adds: – This will complete the developments. After the bankruptcy of Malév, the turnover dropped dramatically. The city is almost empty! The tourism sector now needs help to ease its burden.
– But our hotels and other properties are in the right place: from the office center at Vörösmarty tér 5 and then down Váci Street to La Cucina, Promenade City Hotel and La Prima Fashion Hotel, Taormina Restaurant, Váci utca 34 the Buddha Bar, Váci 77, the Cosmo Fashion Hotel and the Rézangyal Restaurant, Váci u. No. 83 is Estilo Fashion Hotel. If you have a tourist, you will come here first – Sameer Hamdan takes the floor.
The duo also received the Tourism Investor of the Year award in 2010, and it is important for them to recognize their work. Few people know that, shortly after its opening, the Alta Moda Fashion Hotel was sold to the CEU and changed its function to being the 24th, 14th most fashionable hotel in the world. Although old buildings have been renovated since 1996, they did not apply for or receive a single penny grant.
– Before we started renovating the Expo Congress Hotel, built in 1968, the building was no longer a good standard for a hostel. Then came Mellow Mood Hotels, we renovated it into a 4-star superior hotel, which we are proud of. We think it is important for the state to help entrepreneurs. In such a difficult time, some support for salaries, employment, or even VAT could and should be reduced. 18% VAT, plus 4% and almost 60% of other tax revenues and the already lower income due to the crisis go to the tax burden. We recommend that the industry initiate negotiations with the state to develop an economic life-saving belt! Says Sameer Hamdan. – There were times when the profession was able to achieve serious results: years ago, for example, it was possible to set the VAT on lodging at 18% instead of 25%. Although Malév did not fail at that time, the economic situation was not as difficult as it is now. This is a serious step now, for example, hotel VAT should be reduced to 10%! Recommends Zuhair Awad.
Then the question is, what makes Mellow Mood so daring to open so many hotels in the midst of a crisis?
– There is no tourism without a hotel. Budapest is a beautiful city, and we are confident that it can compete with its competitors in terms of tourism. The good thing is that there are specialties like Nobu Restaurant or Buddha-Bar Hotel, which are attractive on far land. At the same time I miss programs, more concerts, festivals. Hungarian Tourism Ltd. has got young, dynamic people, I see development there, but I am sorry that they have a small marketing budget.
At the same time, they are grateful for their openness to the Middle East. We already feel that interested people are starting to come from there. However, the HUF 48 million support budget of Budapest Tourism Destination Management Nonprofit Ltd. is very low! But it is much better to invest in tourism than in other sectors, says Sameer Hamdan, who adds that they are one of the best sellers of the Budapest Card.
Mellow Mood Hotels has apparently found its own segment with designer fashion hotels, opening its first overseas unit in Austria on June 1st. The Viennese House has a style similar to that of La Prima in Budapest. Later, hotels are planned to open in Prague, Bratislava, Krakow and Bucharest. In the future, expansion is envisaged primarily through management and franchise contracts, and the operation of Hungarian country houses is also discussed.
– We have a total of three foreign employees, the director of the Buddha-Bar Hotel, Daniel Penet, the hotel’s executive chef, Osama Kutaini and his sou chef, Hiroe Shoji. By the way, we have been working exclusively with Hungarian entrepreneurs and suppliers for 15 years, although we have received a lot of offers from China to Indonesia due to developments. But we insisted that money should flow here, and the Hungarians are very talented and talented. That is why, for example, we ordered the glass walls in the rooms of the Buddha-Bar Hotel from Orosháza instead of France. The work of the Russian people was so successful that they ordered the Buddha-Bar Hotel in Paris.