Industry Insider: Martin Kolb, GM of the Divan Erbil Hotel in Iraq on the important role news plays for he and his guests
For this Industry Insider, we spoke with Martin Kolb, General Manager of the iconic Divan Erbil Hotel in the Kurdistan region of Iraq about his hotel, the industry in his region, and the important role that news plays for he and his guests.
PressReader: Can you tell us a little bit more about your role and what you do?
Martin Kolb: I’m the General Manager of the Divan Erbil Hotel, as well as the entire complex which includes office buildings and a small shopping center.
PR: How did you come to join the Divan Erbil Hotel?
MK: I had just returned from Africa and was open to a new challenge, when a headhunter approached me with the opportunity to manage this property in Erbil, Iraq. This was before the Islamic State crisis began to unfold in June 2014.
PR: What do you think is unique about the Divan Erbil Hotel that helps differentiate it from others?
MK: There are only two 5 star hotels in town, and we’re the largest, the newest and the ‘best’. We have the whole package. If we were operating this hotel somewhere like Dubai, we’d be in the same league as brands like InterContinental, Shangri-La, Hilton, Sheraton, and so on. But here, in Kurdistan, things are a little different. We’re very focused on security, for example. We’re the only hotel in town with a 3-meter perimeter wall around a large compound. The hotel itself sits in the middle, 100 meters away from any wall and therefore not an easy target for car bombs. Guests select us for this reason, among others.
PR: What demographic are the majority of your guests?
MK: The vast majority of our guests — 90% or so — are male business travelers. They come from all over the world.
PR: How have you seen the hotel industry change over the years?
MK: The growth of the industry here brought an increasing number of inexperienced staff who were not always reliable, so it has been a challenge to maintain the same standards and quality amidst this growth. That said, although things have evolved in our region, guests still enjoy the same things they used to: a good meal, a good drink in a place with a nice ambiance, a clean room and a comfortable bed with working air conditioning. So these things continue to be a focus for our hotel. A newspaper in the morning is still important, as ever.
PR: Given the heightened political situation in Iraq, what role does news play in helping your guests to stay informed?
MK: When you live in Iraq, news travels fastest on the street. Guests regularly check Al Jazeera, CNN and BBC. They’ll then read newspapers for a more in-depth take on what’s happening around here as well as in their hometowns. We introduced PressReader to help meet this demand. It’s another thing that helps to attract guests and differentiate us. Guests now expect certain things from their hotels: 100+ TV channels, high-speed internet, and access to international newspapers.
PR: What do you like most about the work you do?
MK: I enjoy the challenge. We offer a great product in a difficult time and a challenging environment.
PR: What’s the biggest challenge you face?
MK: Finding and keeping good staff!
PR: What do you want people to know about Erbil?
MK: It could be a nice place, and it will be a nice place once the situation changes. In the meantime, it’s not as bad as it sounds on the news. We lead normal lives here and it’s often a lovely place. This morning, all over the city, we saw a beautiful sunrise, our local mountain had fresh snow on top, and we watched the fog rise above the city’s green parks. By the time the afternoon rolled around, I was sitting in my garden sunbathing in my swimming gear! It’s a free city where you can get all the things you need without restrictions. Many religions coexist, and live peacefully together and respect each other. I think it sets a great example.
Martin Kolb is the General Manager of the Divan Erbil Hotel in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. If you’re interested in learning more about our solutions for hotels, get in touch.