Lior Bebera, General Manager of InterContinental Bucharest, talked to OZB Magazine about the art of managing one of the most successful hotels in Bucharest. German National, born in Israel, Lior Bebera worked in seven countries on 3 continents, speaks six languages and always had the desire to be a citizen of the world. His passion for the hospitality industry is as big as his passion for music, and the combination results in an enthusiastic and hard working professional, whose main goal is to continue to wow and entertain his guests.
“If it would be up to my parents, I would be a lawyer, but if you study law in Germany, you can only be a lawyer in Germany. I wanted to become a citizen of the world, I started to work in Germany, then I moved to the USA, Israel, Great Britain, Ukraine, Malta and finally Romania”, remembers Lior Bebera. He joined IHG and grew up the rank, so every two- three years the company moved him to another location, being very happy with his performance and investing is his career growth.
Usually the best employees in junior roles move up after two years, as the company is growing, but the managers stay 4-5 years in the same position. He came to Romania exactly two years ago, after a similar mandate in Malta. “Bucharest is the first place, from all countries I lived, where I really feel home, because you have everything you need: a big city, warm, welcoming, friendly people. I didn’t have the feeling I had to work hard to make connections and friends. I believe that in a city like Paris or London, I can’t contribute to the industry as much as I contribute here. Romania needs to attract more people, more tourists, and I work hard for that.”, says Lior Bebera.
There are little things that needs to be done: basic elements are not in place or not up to standards, like infrastructure, the taxi drivers (the first encounter of a foreign tourist) or the airport that is too small, and Bucharest needs a bigger one, as the traffic increased 300% in the last 15 years. His opinion is similar to the opinions of other managers of foreign companies present here. “You need to start to promote your beautiful country: you can go to any airport in Europe, nothing is mentioned about Bucharest or Romania. But before doing marketing for a destination, you have to fix the the problems”, says Lior Bebera.
One of his hobbies is to travel, so he visited the mountains, the sea side, Sibiu, and many other places but the driving experience is really not easy here. Bucharest remains his favorite city and he thinks this city should be the heart of Romania, in the same way as the lead singer is the heart of the band.
In order to become an international caliber destination, Bucharest needs an exhibition/conference area, a big scale one, where big events can be organized during the entire year. Paris has one, Frankfurt has one, Bucharest has none. The city needs to attract international travelers, so why not have an international book exhibition or an international art exhibition? Lior Bebera has always been attracted to the artistic world, and music is for him a passion and a way of life.
“I started to sing when I was young, I wrote my own songs when I was 6-7 years old, I had my own band, I was in tv shows, but I decided it was not a serious career option for me. I couldn’t afford not to have a steady income. Even today I sing karaoke or I sing for my team in the hotel, they appreciate it a lot”, confesses Lior Bebera. Being close to the team and being able to understand each other are key points in defining a good manager.
“Empathy is very important, you have to understand the challenges they are in, their problems, their wishes, try to analyze the team, see their strengths and try to overcome the weaknesses. You have to be hands on all the time. It’s not about being the nicest guy every day. If you want to make everyone happy, go sell ice cream. Sometimes there are things that are not ok, and we have to be transparent and give appropriate feedback. I say to every new employee: I promise you will have days when you will cry and you think that you actually hate what you do, but I promise you will have more days when you will love what you do and you will have fun. To fail is part of the success”, says Lior Bebera, who is convinced that happy employees make happy guests, and happy guests make happy companies and owners.
InterContinental Bucharest has 257 rooms and 220 employees. The manager spends usually in the hotel 10-12 hours per day and does everything that needs to be done. His managing rule is related, how else, to people. He spends 70% of his time with the team, guests, stakeholders; 20% of the time is spent in meetings and 10% in office administration.
He is here at the hotel around 7 am, he checks the employees, the breakfast, he talks to his managers, then at 8.30 there is a morning meeting to discuss the coming day, challenges of last night, and any other important topic. “As I said to the students of Romanian-American University, being a hotel manager is like being a mayor of a city: the hotel is like a city, and when the city wakes up, you need the right people at the right posts. We are a city within a city, we have the restaurants, bars, conference rooms, and no time to be bored, because every day is a different day”, says Lior Bebera.
When 70% of the guests are international travelers from Germany, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, InterContinental is a cosmopolite place where business people and tourists have a good time, and this is reflected by an occupancy rate of constantly above 80%. The majority of the guests are business people during the week, and in weekend people come for city breaks. “We have exceptional reviews on TripAdvisor and also in social media and these reviews are for me very important and equally important for our colleagues and also guests. In order to engage millennial travelers, we have to come up all the time with something new. When I was a kid, whenever I went to a hotel, I was super-excited because I always found things you couldn’t find at home. Now it’s the other way around, people have at home more interesting things then they have at a hotel. We must continue to “wow” our guests. We must not miss the opportunity to be on top of mind, and social media is very important for us to communicate with our guests, to do marketing, but also to keep ourselves updated, to keep connected”, says Lior Bebera.
All these points of his strategy concluded in InterContinental Bucharest being in 2017 the hotel with best results from all InterContinental hotels in Europe, a performance difficult to achieve every year. What is important is always to think ahead: if you have a team who wins the championship this year, what is the motivation for them to do it next year? But the company has projects next year to enhance guest experience further, so also the hotels performance. The Bucharest market is slowly becoming a star, so IHG, the mother-group of InterContinental will bring on the local market other brands: Indigo brand will open its first hotel in Bucharest center next summer, and there are also discussions about Holiday Inn brand.
A true entertainer in the hotel industry, Lior Bebera, with his personality and his passion for business, adds an extra star to the five ones the InterContinental already has, making this hotel the liveliest brightest 5* Hotel in Bucharest.
How do you like your coffee ?
I usually have espresso, strong and short.
What’s your favorite app ?
Medalia (a measurement tool for guest experience).
Name 3 things you always carry with you.
Phone, wallet, business cards (because I don’t want to miss any opportunity to meet people).
What’s your favorite place in Bucharest ?
Herastrau Park – if it’s spring, summer, autumn or winter, I can walk, relax, have dinner in a restaurant.
How did you spend your last holiday ?
I was in Greece, in Crete, at Elounda Hotels, a fantastic experience.
What newspapers/magazines do you read ?
OZB, The Diplomat, German magazines and newspapers. I have an app on the phone which has all newspapers and in the morning I read all the news from all over the world.
What colour is your kitchen ?
The most important person in your life is…?
My better half, my daughter, my parents, my family.
What do you like best about Romania ?
The diversity. You have everything you need: tradition, culture, history, nature.
PHOTO CREDIT: SORIN STANA.