The hospitality industry is constantly changing and evolving. To learn more about this interesting business, we sat down with Karin Kopano, the General Manager of Hotel 50 Bowery to find out what it is like working in a male-dominated industry, as well as what makes a hotel successful in one of the most competitive cities in the world.

NEWSETTE: How do you stay on top of the competition in a city like New York, where there is a hotel on every corner?

Karin: Genuine service is what sets us apart. There are many new and beautiful properties, but the human element is what makes the guest come back. I love to call creating exceptional experiences and tailoring needs to exceed guest expectations, invisible service.  This starts with the hiring process, through on-boarding, and in everyday coaching and mentoring.  I am proud to report that since our first month of operation our guest feedback has been exemplary, and our TripAdvisor rankings are in the Top Ten for NYC.

N: What is the craziest demand you’ve ever gotten from a hotel guest?   

K: The craziest demand happened during an event for a client. They had a tiger and the animal in her cage would not fit in the elevator. We had 6 people carry the cage with a tiger in it a flight up to the event space. I was not sure if I was more worried about the tiger, or the team carrying the cat.

N: What are a few things people don’t know about the hospitality industry?

K: It is a 24/7 industry. It is fun and spontaneous and you really need to have a passion for this field in order to survive and thrive.  Your colleagues and team become your family in many ways. Between the long hours and working so closely you truly become friends in many cases for years and years.

N: How has the industry changed over the past 10 years? Has technology played a role in these changes?

K: Guest profiles have changed, the term “luxury stay” has changed to “experiential stay.” Nowadays, guests are very self-sufficient and well-educated in travel.  They know exactly what they want and many prefer to use technology over interaction with others. Aside from technology, we keep an eye on trends and our differentiators. Guests look for more than just a rate and location. Community, sustainability, experiences like food, nightlife and culture are becoming deciding factors.

N: The hospitality industry has been known to be dominated by men, how did you get to where you are and what advice do you have for women who want to succeed in this industry?

K: A decade ago I was the only female on my team; now half of my team includes bright female leaders. During my career growth, I stayed focused, used my voice, set my expectations and gained respect. My advice is “Be yourself.” Put yourself on a level playing field and don’t play the victim or put roadblocks in front of yourself. Women have the qualities of compassion and nurturing, which most men don’t, and those are fundamental traits in hospitality.

N: Hotels in certain cities are quieter during “off-season.”  How do you prepare for the busy season when business is slow?

K: There is never a slow time for us, off-season is what I call “Housekeeping Season.” It is when we fine-tune service, use creativity for fun activities and prepare the building for the season.

N: What is the most interesting part about your job?

K: Let me start by saying that my entire job is interesting! That being said, no two days are alike – there are so many different tasks and projects on any given day. My job requires a lot of multitasking from reviewing financials, to preparing for a VIP arrival, to menu tasting. For me, interacting with guests and team members is the icing on the cake and makes me the happiest!

N: What qualities make a hotel a successful business?

K: First and foremost, getting to know your guests leads to success. Think outside the box and be ahead of everyone else in trends and guest needs. Have a strong culture that ties back to the community, the owners and your stakeholders. Motivate your sales team to hit top-line revenue and train everyone to appreciate the importance of business savvy and keeping an eye on the bottom line every day. Value your team and your guests alike; both will lead to long-term success.

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