Leonardo Hotels is the affiliated company of Fattal Hotels, and Leonardo Hotels Central Europe operates 11,500 rooms across 68 properties. Here, RLI meets Yoram Biton, Managing Director of Leonardo Hotels Central Europe to speak about how the European arm has developed and what the future holds.

Headquartered in Berlin, Leonardo Hotels Central Europe is responsible for the hotel portfolio in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain and Italy. The brand family consists of Leonardo Hotels, Leonardo Royal Hotels, Leonardo Boutique Hotels and NYX Hotels by Leonardo Hotels. Leonardo Hotels Central Europe is part of the Fattal Hotel Group, which was founded in 1998 by David Fattal and is one of the fastest growing hotel chains in Europe and Israel and in total operates over 200 hotels with more than 40,000 rooms in over 100 destinations and 18 countries.

The past year has been a stable one for the European arm, considering the challenges in the market and they are continuing to develop, especially in Germany but also in the surrounding countries. They are reaching the end of this year having completed their targets, having remained on budget and are also operating with a six per cent increase over last year’s numbers.

In terms of expansion and redevelopment, the rebranding of the Leonardo Hotel in Rome will be complete by the end of this year, whilst in 2020 six new properties will open across the year. In February, a new site will open in Offenbach, Frankfurt, meanwhile in March one will launch next to Zurich Airport and the Verona branch in Italy will reopen following a rebranding and renovation period. In April a new hotel will open its doors in Dortmund, whilst spring will see the launch of the NYX Hotel by Leonardo Hotels in Warsaw and finally, the Leonardo Royal Hotel in Barcelona will be taking bookings at the end of the year. New locations are always being looked for, and at the moment southern Europe and particularly Portugal are on the agenda as they do not have a presence there just yet. Focus is also being given to expanding in Span and Italy.

“As for what attracts us to new sites, it depends on the segments,” explains Yoram Biton, Managing Director of Leonard Hotels Central Europe. “We look for locations that can be an attractive midweek option for business workers, and also one that can attract the leisure seeking guests at weekends; it is all about achieving this unique balance.”

It is this balance of business and leisure offerings that has kept the group’s hotels attractive and exciting for guests. The targeting of both markets has meant that, for example, sites have both excellent restaurant offerings for business people during the working week, but are also ideally positioned for the leisure crowds who arrive over weekend for global or sports events.

There remains continued growth of 10 per cent year-on-year of the brand’s loyalty club members, and Biton believes one reason for this is that when Leonardo builds, buys or rebrands a hotel, they have a clear vision of what they want and at the forefront of this vision is the guest, they are put at the front of everything and are the main consideration of every decision made.

“We are planning and designing everything 100 per cent to the guest’s wishes,” explains Biton. “Also technology wise, we are developing fast check-in and check-out machines. In our new NYX Hotel brand, we are developing a lot of new era standards which is helping to attract guests.”

Leonardo Hotels is bigger than the sum of its parts; they are a professional and international chain with all parts of the business benefitting from other parts. Recently they have created the new E-Commerce & Digital Marketing Team department to handle the website and the booking channels. Biton feels that well-trained employees are the company’s number one asset and are as important as the guests and the owners.

“To assist with building the best possible team, we have established an academy for our employees, a place where people can grow in the company and understand the structure of the company and the philosophy behind Leonardo Hotels,” Biton explains.

With an eye on the future, the major challenges facing the company are the completion of the huge development pipeline which currently exists, and competing in the market for the best qualified employees. “However, I am happy to say that new managers coming from within the company are qualified employees and the right people to guide the ethos of the company moving forward,” says Biton. “In Leonardo, there are no borders for success and no borders for development in all fields. We want to work all together and what makes me very happy is seeing employees who gain satisfaction together, which in turn will bring success to the company in the future,” Biton concludes.