Travel & Tourism
Rising Beyond the Hospitality: George Koumendakos
Speaking with the Entrepreneur, George Koumendakos, General Manager, Mövenpick Hotel (Colombo) gave us a little insight into what makes the brand one of Colombo’s most unique hotels, how they are managing prevailing challenges, and more.
George Koumendakos, General Manager, Mövenpick Hotel (Colombo), has honed his skills as a seasoned Hotelier working in over 11 countries throughout his 30 year career. Speaking with the Entrepreneur, the father of two  who is also a Man-City fan gave us a little insight into what makes Mövenpick one of Colombo’s most unique hotel properties, how they are managing the challenges of the global pandemic and more.
Reflecting on the evolution of the Hospitality industry, George told The Entrepreneur “hospitality is such a fast paced, exciting industry. Back in the day it was all about providing the basic needs for guests. However, innovation, technology and many other factors have helped hospitality evolve into an “experience”. From check in to check out, it’s all about the overall experience. We all strive to provide services to our customers that ensure we stand out from our competitors. The architecture and aesthetics too play an important role. We have seen online marketing and OTA’s take a giant leap in the last few years along with AirBnB and other homestays increasing in popularity. I feel that technology has shaped the guest’s journey, while a digitalized guest experience has also shown prominence in the last few years”.
George admits that his experience vs. his expectations when moving to Sri Lanka were both challenging yet interesting. Koumendakos believes that “Sri Lanka has some beautiful hotels and resorts. We have also seen quite a boom with some very prominent brand names entering the Sri Lankan market, especially here in Colombo. We faced the unfortunate incidents last year in April (2019), and my experience is that Sri Lankans are resilient. They are confident and they always bounce back. It’s all about positivity. Sri Lanka is a beautiful island and I have been able to travel to some fabulous places during my time here. From Hambantota to Kalutara and Nuawara Eliya, you realize how different each city is. Sri Lankans are very hospitable people who deliver service from their hearts which is one of the unique selling points for tourists visiting our beautiful island”.
While several large industries that aid in upholding Sri Lanka’s economy, have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown, George believes the hospitality industry has a long and illustrious road ahead. “We are all under immense pressure but I know that the industry will overcome this. It’s about operational optimization and repositioning the industry in keeping with the new health and safety guidelines. Digital and contactless approaches will be key with flexible cancellation policies. We will see a focus on the shift in consumption patterns, customer perceptions and experiences and we will also have to adjust accordingly”. Tourism is still Sri Lanka’s third largest foreign exchange earner with a total earning of $3.7 billion in the last year, George agrees that achieving this in the coming year seems a far reach.
Currently Mövenpick aims to focus on their F&B offerings until tourism regains momentum.
With over 4,500 properties worldwide, as part of AccorHotels – Mövenpick has implemented international #ALLSAFE guidelines and service standards. From temperature checks, to luggage sanitization, area demarcation to aid in facilitating social distancing rules and guidelines, as well as capacity limits for banquets/ restaurants, etc, George explains “we will continue to adhere to all health and safety regulations advised by the government for the safety of staff and guests”.
In conclusion George said “as a global pandemic, the impact this has on Tourism, and the challenges will be a lot greater, than what we may have faced previously. Having said that, I do feel confident of the future and I know that Sri Lanka will still be one of the top countries to visit as they have handled this exceptionally well.”