The Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Dubrovnik Sun Gardens has become a recognized as one of the leading meeting, conference and event venues in the Dubrovnik MICE industry. MICExchange recently had the opportunity to meet and interview Mr Julian Houchin, Commercial Director for iO Adria and one of the owning representatives of Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens, where we asked about the factors impacting the meetings and events sector in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
The heritage city of Dubrovnik is arguably one of the most prestigious destinations of the Adriatic and many would say it has taken its place as one of the major meeting destinations of choice in Europe as event organizers of international gatherings take advantage of the excellent facilities, high standard of service and affordable prices.
Mr Houchun stated that “….Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens offers some of the largest and most flexible integrated event venues in Dubrovnik...” The exclusive Adriatic seaside resort experience is enhanced by an award winning SPA, comprehensive Sports Centre and a host of restaurants and bars, adding local flavor that emphasizes the impact of any meeting and event.
Mr Julian Houchin is quoted as responding to questions asked by MICExchange.com on how Dubrovnik and Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Dubrovnik Sun Gardens is adapting to the changing MICE marketplace within Croatia.
Q In recent years Dubrovnik has experienced a significant tourism increase during the shoulder seasons. Has there been a corresponding increase in meeting and conference business during this period?
(Mr J Houchin) In the past few years, Dubrovnik has indeed experienced significant increases in tourism and has become a destination recognized worldwide for both leisure and business. The growth trend for tourism in Dubrovnik has been showing year on year double digit rises that confirm its growing status as one of the more desirable meeting destinations in Europe and has been successful in attracting many leading international companies.
Q In your view, has the increase in Dubrovnik tourism been a reflection of a general trend, focused meeting and event marketing, or the result of a wider choice of venues and facilities in Dubrovnik and Croatia?
(Mr J Houchin) It’s a mix of both, although the offering and number of high quality venues has increased significantly in recent times, Dubrovnik has always had a certain appeal and attraction for meeting planners as a destination. The destination has so much to offer apart from its obvious heritage and charm, with its high standards of hotel conference venues on offer, among which our resort stands out as one of the leading event venues with a track record of hosting outstanding meetings and events.
Q Which factors have influenced meetings and event planners to select Dubrovnik as a conference and meetings destination?
(Mr J Houchin) Most often reason we hear is – WE WANTED A NEW DESTINATION in Europe and one that is easily accessible for our delegates. Located in the heart of Europe Dubrovnik is such an obvious choice. Meeting planners have become tired of the same “old” or traditional destinations, and also clients have become more demanding in terms of have an authentic experience in a new destination. Therefore Dubrovnik is very wisely, seizing the opportunity by promoting its special appeal as a meeting destination.
Q Has Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens been able to successfully promote to meetings and event organizers the long shoulder seasons with their typically very good weather?
(Mr J Houchin) We have been able to successfully promote these shoulder periods and as a result, the demand for them is already peaking as planners realize the possibilities of the destination. The variety and choice of venues in Dubrovnik is extensive, and the weather is typically very good even in shoulder seasons so planners and clients can maximise their experience of the destination, and our resort (Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Dubrovnik Sun Gardens) offers meeting organizers some of the largest and most flexible integrated event venues and ultra modern facilities that can accommodate any event format. When conference organizers visit Dubrovnik and subsequently our resort, they leave with a very good impression, confident in the belief that the combination of Dubrovnik as a destination and our resort will provide them the necessary ingredients for a successful conference.
Q What are the proportions of domestic, regional and international meetings, conferences and events hosted by Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens?
(Mr J Houchin) I’d say we are a very international resort. The majority of meetings we host at Radisson Blu Dubrovnik Sun Gardens are from overseas and delegates we have hosted have come from over 142 different nationalities. That once again shows the strength of the destination and our resort which is confirmed by the fact that we’ve been recognized so quickly by planners worldwide, who view us as one of the leading and emerging meeting, conference and event venues in Europe.
Q Airlines have been extending flight schedules due to Dubrovnik’s appeal as an attractive destination. How has this affected bookings for meetings and events?
(Mr J Houchin) Yes, the growing interest for Dubrovnik as a destination has definitely prompted the airlines to extend flight schedules into the shoulder seasons, and that has had a direct impact on bookings at our resort. We have seen a much longer booking window contrary to trends in MICE industry. This increase in interest has definitely affected the fore-casted future growth in the Dubrovnik meetings and events sector. We understand that Dubrovnik airport alone will handle more than 1.6 million incomings in 2013 and numbers are already at least 13% on last year.
Q Dubrovnik has already a well developed infrastructure as well as many unique, interesting and historical venues for events. How has Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens taken advantage of its proximity to the surrounding attractions?
(Mr J Houchin) We have been able to capitalize very quickly on being on such a privileged location especially when it comes to meetings and incentives. Our proximity to Dubrovnik old town, the Elaphiti islands located just in front of our resort and being so close to Peljesac with its wine and seafood have influenced many meeting planners to opt for our resort. The resorts access to Dubrovnik’s history and culture provides for interesting events, but it’s far enough removed so as not to distract delegates during their conference sessions. The Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens surroundings offer a wealth of options for pre and post meeting and incentive.
Q How are you responding to the challenges for the conference and meetings industry in Dubrovnik and Croatia with the ongoing EU financial restraints?
(Mr J Houchin) Providing value for money has always been a top priority at Radisson Blu Dubrovnik. We have noticed that even in tough financial times and crisis, the meeting and conference organizers still put quality first, and they also want to know that they are getting value for money, and that is exactly the case for Dubrovnik as a destination.
Q Have you seen a change in lead-times for booking conferences, meetings and events since 2012?
(Mr J Houchin) As mentioned previously, from our experience, whilst we still see relatively short lead times for certain conference bookings, There are definitely many more requests with longer lead times as confidence in the corporate sector returns. We believe this is a result of increasing demand for the destination, as well as our success in positioning our resort within the meetings and events industry.
Q When cost and value for money are high on the checklists of meetings and event organizers, what is the special advantage of Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens over its competitors?
(Mr J Houchin) It is Radisson Blu Dubrovnik’s value for money that makes the difference every time. Meeting planners and conference organizers still do not want to take the risk and focus purely on cost, they want to make sure that they get value for money, and that is exactly what they receive from our resort. Our special advantage is that all the necessary meeting and event infrastructure exists within the resort. The planner benefits by being able to focus purely on their programmes and their participants, confident of the facilities and support.
Q Which are your targeted international markets for meetings, events and conferences. Can you identify the most important factors that would influence the choice of Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens?
(Mr J Houchin) Our target client base includes Europe, but with an emphasis on UK, Germany, Scandinavia and France. The most important factors that make Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Dubrovnik Sun Gardens stand out, would be our state of the art meeting facilities, range of venues within the resort, diverse and extensive resort amenities including spa and sports facilities and of course the quality of our accommodation.
Q There have been award winning TV series filmed in Dubrovnik where both the actors and producers say they really enjoyed Dubrovnik. Have you seen an affect from the publicity and the appearance of celebrities in promoting Dubrovnik?
(Mr J Houchin) Indeed. There is always a huge wave of interest that follows any movie, TV production or celebrity visit and Dubrovnik is currently a hot spot experiencing a lot of publicity and promotion as a result. The celebrities are typically well travelled people and when they discover and experience the beauty and charm of Dubrovnik and Croatia, they often share it with the world. The benefit of that kind of exposure is immeasurable and always welcome.
Q Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens is a uniquely integrated event venue with state of the art meeting spaces and ultra modern facilities, village style layout, restaurants, sports amenities and renown Spa. What is the ideal group profile, size and type of events, meetings, incentive programs and conferences?
(Mr J Houchin) We’d be wrong if we said we have an ideal group size for our resort. We are lucky enough to have such a variety of facilities and accommodation types such that our resort is a perfect venue for a variety of groups for meetings, events and incentives. With a large choice of meeting rooms of different formats (many of them with daylight) and restaurants of various types and capacity, organizers are able to find a combination for each group regardless of the number of participants. We are also able to tailor make various incentive programs to compliment any group size, together these can provide the support and flexibility required by an organizer.
Q What is Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens main attraction for weddings and celebrations when organisers are looking for a unique location, setting and facilities for a memorable event?
(Mr J Houchin) The resort offers a range of unique venues for weddings and special occasions. The property offers amazing settings and views, such as those of our private beach, stunning pool-side settings for receptions and our Ginja lounge club for wedding parties. For any bride and groom on such a memorable day it is important to provide the best locations and service. We feel that a dream wedding in our resort is something they will take with them throughout their lives and remember the love they celebrated at our resort with friends and family.
Q What is Radisson Blu Resort & Spa at Dubrovnik Sun Gardens goal as it goes forward?
(Mr J Houchin) Our main goal is to maintain excellence in service, in order to satisfy the needs of our new and loyal clients, that is all any resort or hotelier can ask for. Our focus on quality and value resulted in a TripAdvisor® 2013 Certificate of Excellence. We believe it all starts with a happy customer.