“The Most Important Asset is Human Capital”

BY Dan Magazine   DATE 07/06/2018

An interview with Ronen Nissenbaum, Dan Hotels’ new President & CEO, about transitioning from an international hotel chain to an Israeli chain, the importance of human capital and his experience to date with Dan Hotels.

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Ronen Nissenbaum, CEO of Dan Hotels

Congratulations on your position. How does it feel to be in Israel after so many years of living abroad?
Honestly, I missed it. I’m happy to be close to my family, my mother, my sister, childhood friends whom I haven’t seen in years. It’s an opportunity to catch up, reconnect and return to my roots.
To those who think that I’m going through a “culture shock” after 15 years abroad, I can reassure you that I’m not. I managed a hotel in Israel for four years before going abroad. The “shock” would have occurred had I not worked in Israel in the past. As far as I’m concerned, I have returned to a place I know very well from the not too distant past. What I need to do now is to catch up on the past 15 years.

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Your background is in hotel management in an international chain, what is your experience in transitioning to an Israeli chain?
I like to compare it to a choice between being a small fish in the sea, or a big fish in a pond.
When I served in senior positions abroad, I was always aware of the fact that there were many good and talented people. In Israel, and as CEO of Dan Hotels, I am fortunate to have taken on one of the most senior positions in the hotel industry in the country. Someone who can shape attitudes; it’s a role in which I can influence matters more effectively, someone whose voice is heard and the opportunity to contribute to the Hotel Industry.

You have had a rich and diverse career in the hotel industry. Is it still challenging?
As part of my long career abroad, I managed a chain of dozens of hotels around the world, and I defined my role as an “opener” – opening new hotels or upgraded existing ones. The challenges I will face in a new position is what motivates me to change roles – something that my father, who worked for 30 years at El Al, could never understand. If there is an opportunity, take it with both hands, and when it comes to decision-time, always choose the more challenging road.

What is the most important thing to pay attention to in hotel management?
Human capital, in my opinion, is the most important asset in a company, especially in the hotel industry.
First, you need to recruit the right people, who not only have the right skills and attitude but are also highly motivated to contribute to the system. These people need to be nurtured, invested in, trained, and you need to establish a relationship that will enable them to perform their duties with passion, out of complete identification with their workplace and their purpose. This investment pays off at the end of the day, because the skill and satisfaction of employees has an amazing impact on their desire to provide the guests with exceptional service.

When you first enter a hotel, what are the things that catch your attention?
I visit many hotels around the world and always try to look at the hotel through the guests’ eyes.
A pleasant scent in the lobby has an immediate effect on me: there is something inviting about it that appeals to you as soon as you walk in. I also pay attention, of course, to the level of cleanliness and maintenance, and lighting is also important in creating a pleasant and inviting atmosphere. When the doorman or the receptionist – the first people the guest meets – are courteous and welcoming, and smile broadly at you, it indicates proper management and professional training.

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What are the most important things for a guest who comes to stay at the hotel?
The guest must get their money’s worth, according to what was promised. The hospitality experience starts with the first impression upon arrival, a spotlessly clean room, and excellent service that attends to every need, large or small, so that the guests feel that their expectations have been exceeded. It is important to converse with the guest and have empathy.
When first-time guests arrive, we treat them as someone tasting something for the first time: your job, as the hotelier, is to take an interest in the guests and impress them so that they will return.
The initial experience is pivotal.
A returning guest is another story. You have to make him feel that he is coming home, to the pleasant and familiar place where his needs and preferences are met – the wine he drinks, the food he likes and the pillow he likes to sleep on.
Here’s a personal example from the airlines I fly with. As a frequent flyer, the stewards are always interested in me, asking about my family, the personal attention they show toward me certainly influences my loyalty to the company.

In your opinion, what makes Dan Hotels unique?
The organizational culture is very unique. You can see and feel the employees’ pride in their workplace, they love their workplace. It is difficult today to find this kind of loyalty.
They say “a healthy mind in a healthy body”. This means that the family, the second and third generations of the Federmann family, love the company and the people in the company. They act like a family, care about their employees, are genuinely interested in them and in their personal lives. This attitude creates an atmosphere and culture that I have not seen in any company – a type of loving family, involved and respectful of its people and employees.

At the end of 2017 you launched the first overseas hotel-THE DEN. Does this make The Dan an international chain?
THE DEN, the chains’ new hotel in Bangalore, India, is a serious and significant milestone. This is the chain’s first hotel abroad, which brings us into the international market and turning us into an international company.
The hotel represents the next generation of luxury hotels in modern and contemporary design.
Thanks to its cordial hospitality experience, first class cuisine and exceptional service, the hotel is expected to be one of the leading in business hotels in Bangalore.

We also have a new and surprising hotel in Tel Aviv…
LINK hotel & hub, the chain’s new brand in Tel Aviv, brings something new and fresh, a combination of an urban hotel, a shared work space, and state-of-the-art technology.
This is a new concept, different from what we have done so far, responding to the technology savvy segment.
The advanced technology that we are developing for LINK, which allows guests to enjoy all the hotel services through an app, gives us an important and unique advantage in the hotel industry.
We will be able to replicate this technology to other hotels in our chain, and the concept will give us a growth engine to develop our brand abroad as well.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I enjoy spending time with my family; my wife Karen my soul mate and my life partner, and our three children – Max, Ben, and Maya.
I love being with them at home, and on family vacations.
Twice a year we go on vacations, especially ski vacations – and these are the times I cherish most.

Written by  Dan Magazine