Elizaveta Yurusheva, General Manager of Fairmont Grand Hotel Kyiv, Riviera boutique hotel, VOGUE Café Kyiv, the founder of "Obyrayemo maybutne razom” (Eng. Choose the future together) Charity Fund and www.23-59.com.ua web shares with us her vision of hospitality business in Ukraine and horizons of country development.
Elizaveta, you lived and worked in Austria, and then moved to Ukraine and have been running a serious business here. Do you feel any pressure in terms of being a female business leader here?
I grew up in Austria. I moved there when I was 5 years old and then I moved back to Ukraine when I was 19. I lived 2 or 3 years in England as well. As I always say, I was probably born Ukrainian. I call it that way because the mentality of Ukrainians and Europeans are totally different. For me still Ukrainian mentality is very close. I totally understand how the business runs here, what people want what do I want and it is the same thing. It is naturally easy for me to live in Ukraine. As for me the question is not to be a woman leader but the daughter of the owner. That’s the cliché, and you have to earn your respect in front of people and also the age was the issue. Now I am 29 and I started working here when I was 20. I can totally understand how people looked at me 9 years ago: there is a girl, the daughter of the owner and she tries to rule things. That was actually pretty hard to convince people that: “Guys, I want the best result!” It is not that somebody wants to keep me occupied. My dad was always strict to me. He treated me even worse (I think) than the other managers because I never felt relaxed. He pushes me every day even weekend. When we go for example on a holiday together, everybody laughs because you never know, he can wake up in the morning and wants to see the whole picture of the hotel that you run or of the next project you are going to set. You always have to be ready.
Let us talk about the changes of hotel business in Ukraine after Revolution of Dignity. What types of hotels are in demand now? What are the prospects of hospitality business in Ukraine and what can we expect from Fairmont and Riviera hotels?
I consider us as the biggest holding of hotels here. Even before the Revolution the problem was that we were never a touristic or a business destination. It did not actually change. The biggest thing that has changed is connected to the fact that before the Revolution 36% of our clients were Russians. Now they disappeared completely. That was pretty hard because we needed to fill in this lack of guests, this niche. After the Revolution it was really quite. Who wants to go to the country where a war is? Nobody. But now after time it is growing, step by step, I can see it by the figures. This is really good. And we have a lot of Americans now, a lot of international guests. Of course the luxury is not that one it was before and the prices are never going to be what they were before, but the client wants luxury for good money and value. And I consider our service is much better than in Paris for example or in New York. There they have this mass of touristic people who will come no matter what. In our situation we can lose the client if something goes wrong. So we need to be perfect in everything. That is why I love our service, my team. We do everything for the client. That is the main thing. And we are growing now into direction of reopening Riviera hotel. It is going to be totally different. It will be a product that was not on a market before. My goal is to do the best hotel from the point of view of personalized place. It is going to be a boutique where everything will be luxury from the smell, from the music. The target guests will be from 30 till 50, those who are tired of classic, who want to have this design experience, service experience and luxury one. And there will be conceptual spa. As for the other hotels on the market will be more nice hostels and b&bs, because a lot of young tourists and students come to visit Ukraine.
Going abroad, by what principle do you choose the hotel where you stay in usually?
I am looking for the most interesting one. For me to go to Intercontinental is not interesting. It is mass production, like MacDonald’s in our market. 9.02 I am interested to visit some design hotels, some places that offer something new that I can take home. I chose my destination by hotel. I really want to visit Oman Sveti in Montenegro, Oman is the most luxury resort in the world. I’ve never been in Oman but I really want to see how they do it with service, what they sell for that money.
What will be the 5 star hotel of the future, in 50 years for example, according to your opinion?
It will be the hotel that makes booking by itself probably. I think in 50 years luxury is going be like you just walk into hotel and Siri makes the check in, for example. And it is going to be more ecologic. Already now we are moving into this direction. Design will be more modern, more centralized and will be more gadgets around, which is actually pity because the gadgets are minimizing the staff working into hotels. I don’t actually trust the technologies so much as to a human factor. Maybe human staff will be only in luxury hotels. And maybe we will come back from where we’ve come. May be there will be time with no gadgets again.
I can not help but ask a personal question: how can a young woman manage to be a happy mother, a successful business lady, a loving wife and a caring daughter?
The managing is a myth. We don’t manage we just do. I just don’t think about it. I love my job, I love my kids and my husband. But you just live it, that is the rhythm. I understand my timetable and I need quickly redo my plans if something changes. And I consider myself as a really happy person because I do what I love, I love to spend time with my kids, I love all these toys and go to cinema with kids and I love my husband because he has the same rhythm. For me it is very important. We live the same life. He is in show business and we don’t see each other so often but when he comes back from some trips he just says: “Let us go for a date!” And it is always something special. And I surround myself with people who live emotions as well. The only thing we live for are the emotions, this is my opinion. Money is perfect and you need them but there is a question how you spend them, better to spend them on emotions.
You always have the opportunity to quit and go abroad. But you still choose Ukraine. What are the main difficulties here, and what are the motives that keep you in Ukraine?
As I said in the beginning I consider myself as born-Ukrainian and I think it is because I have the opportunity to choose where to live. In Europe the rhythm is not the same as I would like to. They are slower and they don’t have a niche, they have already everything. For me as for the ambitious person it is hard to get through those traditions. America is perfect in this sense. I always dreamt to go there but I have my parents and I have responsibility as a daughter not to leave them. Yes, I am 29 and I can’t live without my parents. It is a mentality thing and I love Ukraine, seriously. I love Kyiv and the country. It is amazing to work here. A lot of people tell me: it is so hard here, Europe is much better. For me it not true. Yes, we have difficulties because we are growing country but we have huge pluses because we are growing country. And I think that to start something here and now from the business point of view is the best thing. It is going to happen to Ukraine as well when the market is going to stop. Even now when I am thinking that we have everything, my team comes up with new ideas and they are wow. I think Ukrainians are mazing to work with to have ideas with. But it is about mentality. It is easy to say that it is horrible here but you just have to love what you do and to make it perfect. We have a lot of dreamers but they don’t do anything. And I know a lot of people who want to move abroad and I always say to them: go and take a look. And 50% come back.
How do you see our country in 10 years, and what kind of country would you like it to be?
The main minus about Ukraine is that it is unpredictable. You never know what is going to happen. We have a chance to change it in 10 years but not now. Our governmental system still is not stable enough. We just had a revolution and it means that now we go down and only then we will go up. In my perfect world I would love that the war stops (for the country, for the economic for the people, for everyone just stop it). We have to move on. It happened. Yes, I understand our government that wants to have it back but finance it and to see that people die – this is wrong. And I don’t like to see us in this position: we like those, we hate those. Let us be neutral and just forget about Europe and Russia and concentrate on us. Every year we celebrate that we are independent but are we in real? Nobody wants to be independent but with somebody against somebody. We just need some time to calm down, to think about our own needs.
I am a patriot and I am sure that I am more patriot than anyone else. I have an opportunity to leave this country but I stay and I make people to have working places, to do more projects. Yes, maybe I am not wearing vyshyvanka and don’t speak Ukrainian but I do something for this country and these people. And I actually motivate them to stay here. I would love if it comes to balance. I do believe that no matter what, Ukraine will be one of the best countries in Europe, we will not disappear from world’s map ever.
In this country you can get everything. For example in Kyiv you have luxury, art, gastronomy and so on. It is worth of visiting this independent and unique country with its own culture and traditions. When you come to Kyiv, go to Odesa and Lviv as well. We are different from city to city, diversity makes us unique.
Interviewed by Anna Vishtak
Photos provided by Fairmont Grand Hotel Kyiv PR department