Nenad Marić
RIT Croatia Class of 2007
International Hospitality and Service Management

Employer: Valamar Hotels&Resorts Ltd.
Job title: General Manager, Hotel Tirena

Can you describe your company in a few sentences?

Valamar Hotels and Resorts is a leading Croatian Hospitality company which manages 40 facilities on the Croatian Coast. Majority of these facilities are located in the main tourist regions- Istria, Dubrovnik and on the islands Krk and Pag.
We manage the following:
  • 23 hotels
  • 8 apartman complexes
  • 9 camp sites
With a total of 39.000 beds, out of which 16.000 are in hotels and apartments. The mentioned capacity represents about 10% of categorized capacity of Croatia and forms the biggest tourist portfolio under the management of one company. Valamar Hotels and Resorts is also the first Croatian Hotel brand that represents the combination of international quality standards of service, meditteranean gastronomy and elements of Croatian hospitality.

Are you satisfied with the results you accomplished during 2011?

2011 was a really good year for hotel operations. The length of the season and weather conditions contributed to better bookings than expected and the whole region of Dubrovnik noted higher increase of guests in pre and post season. Hotel Tirena*** last year accomplished the best results in the whole Valamar group, which made me especially proud.

General Manager position is a very responsible job. Can you describe your tipical work day?

My typical work day begins at 8:00 am with the morning hotel complex tour. Afterwards, I oversee the service standards and food qulaity in hotel restaurant during breakfast time. Once I get to my office, I use this time for business communication and to check some of my e-mails. Following this, I try to do another hotel tour where I communicate with my staff and hotel guests. During this time, I try to check at least five hotel rooms to make sure that quality and cleanliness of the hotel rooms is up to standards. Around 9:30am we have Department Head's meeting during which we try to solve all current issues and we also try to combine information which is relevant for better Hotel Opeartions. Next I deal with administrative and other tasks and continue my e-mail correspondence. Once I have dealt with all current tasks, I do another detail hotel tour during which I try to communicate to as many guests as possible as their happiness is a key of success. The first part of my working days finishes around 14:00pm, when I go home and I return to work at 18:30pm. Upon my return, I check the quality of dinner. I try to be present in the restaurant during dinner, so I can answer any questions guests may have. In the following period, I complete all administrative tasks and supervise evening operations. My working day ends at 22:00pm when I go home, but I am still available for any possible exceptional situations which may occur during night.

How do you see the current state of Croatian tourism?

Croatian tourism is slowly getting better and better as far as service is concerned. However, in my opinion the biggest problem of Croatian tourism is the lack of infrastructure development within the whole country. For example, Dubrovnik has huge potential to become an all year round tourist destinantion, but continues to be dependant on charter flights which operate between April and end of October. During winter, the town has poor transport connections. The future highway which is planned would significantly decrese the travel time that potential guests coming to Dubrovnik would have to endour. For further touristic development of Croatian Coast and inland, it would be key to bring the comprehensive development strategy that would tie tourism with other industries from which it would be possible to develeop more effective tactics for certain segments.

How would you describe the situation in Hospitality Industry, what are the challenges you are faced with daily?

Hospitality Industry is a very dynamic industry. The most demanding challenge is maintaing and improvement of service quality we are offering to our guests. Tasteful food or a quality bed are sometimes not enough, and we attempt to add that "personal touch" so that every guest leaves our hotel with a desire to come back very soon.

In your opinion, how is it possible to increase competition of Croatian tourism in the world?

Unlike other countries, Croatian tourism has something special to offer: natural beauties on a relatively small area, millennial culture and interesting monuments from various historical eras, ideal geographical location in the heart of Europe, and peace and security which are not as frequent in the world. Croatia needs to expand its offer that would attract guests during winter time when tourists cannot enjoy the Adriatic sea. We need to highlight other natural and cultural beauties that our country has. Development of congress tourism, enhanced offer and quality of gastronomy, rural tourism, medical tourism, development of sport facilities and other recreational facilities- and their usage for touristic purposes. All these are segments we can offer that could have the postive impact on development of Croatian tourism and distinction from being solely a"sun and sea" destination.

You have an impressive career in tourism, not that long ago you started your career as Front Office Agent, and today you are a General Manger of a hotel. What is the key to your success?

Correct, at 28 I became a General Manager, and my professional development went from starting position to top position very fast but very thourough. My first "real experience" was my co-op experience during my studies at RIT Croatia, when I went for 18 months to work for an exclusive hotel in Borrego Springs, in USA. This is where my professional working habits started and they are very different from Croatian ones. I used that knowledge and experience and improved it with experiences specific to Croatian toursim during my internship at Valamar. At the end of my internship program, my work and effort was recognized and my Upper Management suggested me as a candidate for Valamar's Internal Academy for future General Managers.For three years, I was working as Assistant General Manager in two Dubrovnik Hotels and during that period I had the opportunity to get familiar with all aspects of Managers responsibilities and duties. When the position for Hotel Manager in Hotel Tirena*** opened, I got the opportunity to demonstrate my knowledge and experience in this particular position.

You graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology Croatia, with a major in Tourism, Hospitality and Service Management. Can you tell us something about that?

My years of study at RIT Croatia are only good memories. Friendships and networks I acquired during College are the best thing I could ever imagine. Knowledge I gained during classes in four years of RIT Croatia I am using even today in my everyday activities.

In your opinion is RIT Croatia as an Institution of Higher Learning whose programs and standards are adjusted with American University Rochester Institute of Technology, different from other Institutions of Higher Learning and Universities?

I consider that principle of education is considerably different and better at RIT Croatia than other similar Institutions in Croatia. As far as I know from communication with students that attended other Universities, principle of education and teaching techniques is by far more efficient at RIT Croatia as it is focused on "real life" examples and cooperative education.

Do you have a message you would like to share with young people who are considering their College and Career options? What do you think is relevant when deciding on an area of study?

In my opinion, it is exteremly important that young people choose the College path that would teach them what they want to do in their future. Cooperative education that is mandatory at RIT Croatia is exteremly efficient as every student gets the opportunity to gain the international work experience during college time. We are witnessing the growth of unemployment in Croatia and every employer is looking some kind of experience when hiring. Majority of students find themselves in a situation that they are not able to gain that experience in their field. This is where RIT Croatia students have an advantage over students from other colleges as upon graduation they have a minimum of one years of work experience that they gain through their co-ops so this makes them desired employees in the business circle.

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