Detlef Dahms Ratwaage Hotel, Germany: There Are No Differences Between Russian and Other Guests Anymore
The interview took place in the Chamber of industry and commerce in the city of Magdeburg (Germany). Andre Rummel managing director for tourism infrastructure and industry hosted our online meeting with Detlef Dahms the managing director of Ratswaage Hotel.
Detlef, tell us about you and the hotel.
The original hotel was built 1934 and was renovated from 1991 – 1994. We have 156 rooms, conference facilities up to 500 persons, a wellness area with pools, massage, etc. We`re in the center of Magdeburg and we employ 76 persons. I’m the managing director of the hotel since 1995.
Who are the guests of Hotel Ratswaage?
Most guests are from Germany. We have 77 % of German guests and 23% guests from abroad. From these foreign guests in 2019 49% came from China, followed by 8% from Netherland and 8% from Norway.
From our eastern neighbors we had in 2019 round about 500 room nights from Russia or Russian speaking guests as well as 275 guests from Poland and 130 from the Czech Republic.
Do the Russian guests differ from other guests?
The are no differences between Russian and other guests in the meantime. There were some in the past. In the middle of 90’s the Russians were different. They were loud, they wanted to be the center of our hotel bar. But this has disappeared during the years. And nowadays there is nearly no language barrier anymore. All our Russian guests speak English or German.
The only difference we had last year was between European and Chinese guests. The first time the Chinese guests come to Germany, they have to learn the way of life in a German hotel. I can give you an example, which you probably don’t want to hear (laughing), like how to use the toilet. There are differences in the way what they eat, what they like. E.g. they always need a water kettle at the room.
How did you manage to attract so many Chinese guests to Magdeburg? The city does not seem to be the best choice for the first time visit?
They come here to participate in conferences, to learn more about routines at factories or at our university. For example, we had for 2 weeks a group of mayors from Chinese cities to study how a German city administration is working.
Do you participate in special programs like the Russian “China friendly”, which consults the hoteliers on the welcoming guest from China?
We don’t have anything like that. But we do successfully prepare the hotel for the guest from China. E.g. everything is translated in Mandarin short and long script. We don’t need any special food for the Chinese guests as they prefer scrambled eggs and sausages for breakfast. We have WeChat groups, so we post to WeChat, when they are in Germany. We have contract with Chinese companies, e.g. with Huawei. They are building for German Telecom clouds near Magdeburg. So they stay here with us sometimes for half a year. Before the Corona pandemic we had up to 1900 room nights only from the Huawei company.
We go to Asia to make these contracts. We`ve been to Singapore, we`ve been to Shanghai. We have a small Chinese community here in Magdeburg. So, before the guests come, they ask the countryman in Germany where to stay. We have a good contact with this community. They help us to translate, we really have a very good cooperation.
You`ve been running the hotel for so long. Do you see any changes?
The share of foreign guests is increasing in Magdeburg, but the number of conference participants is decreasing. And it will decrease due to Corona. The length of stay of the business guests is also decreasing. In the 90s we had 3 - 4 nights, now we have one or two nights per week.
Now it’s very difficult to find qualified stuff, employees and apprentices. There should be enough free hands to work, but either they don’t speak enough German to work in the hotel for the guests, or they earn not enough in the hospitality industry, so they start working at Amazon and other companies. Therefore, we don’t have qualified employees on the market. Many people don’t like working at night or during the weekend anymore. This is not only the problem of Magdeburg. It’s the problem of the whole market in Germany. We have apprentices from Vietnam and Indonesia in the meantime.
Here in Saxony-Anhalt we have about 30 apprentices from Vietnam in hotels and restaurants. There is a special program between Saxony-Anhalt and Vietnam – the apprentices learn German up to B1 at home. The B2 course they have here in Germany. The families have to finance the apprenticeship. These are usually young people in the age of 20 - 23. They come to hotels and restaurants for three years. After finishing the apprenticeship, they can stay in Germany for 3 more years.
What is the opinion of Magdeburg about Russia?
The Russian army left Magdeburg 27 years ago, and in the meantime the Russians are considered to be as all other guests from abroad in the city. A number of local companies work close to Russian companies. We`re very sad about the sanctions against Russia. We have lost a lot of jobs here in Magdeburg due to this. We would like to have more business with Russia.
Promotion of Magdeburg as a tourism destination. What is missing?
Magdeburg as a travel destination is not promoted enough, neither by the city of Magdeburg nor by the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. At the same time Saxony-Anhalt has a large concentration of world heritage. And nobody promotes it in Russia. That is our problem. We don’t have the money for it, we even don’t have the chances for it. If it would be ITB Russia, we would be part of it, by our own.
If I go to the local tourism office and say, “I want to go to Russia”, the answer is: we don’t have any money. If I go to the federal state, saying that we have to promote Magdeburg, the answer is the same: we have no money.
Moreover, if we go to a fair in China, or Singapore, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, we do it on our own. We have to finance it with our own money.
That is why we have 1/3 of Chinese guests in the federal state Saxony-Anhalt staying at our hotel. It is less expensive to acquire guests in Asia than to do this in Germany for German guests. The reason for this is that we are situated in the middle of Germany. 100 km is not a distance for Chinese guests. We`re 100 km away from Berlin, Leipzig and Hannover. It’s a suitable place to stay and it’s easier for them to apply for a visa, because all the places the Chinese guests stay at have to be part of the visa. If they spend the nights in Magdeburg, they can go on daytrips to companies etc. and stay at one place only. Even from each company or federal bureau they are about to visit the guests need a letter of intent.
Do you notice any promotion of Russia as a travel destination?
I don’t see any promotion of Russia. For sure. I see more promotion of Lithuania or Estonia. The Baltic states promote their capitals, the coasts of the sea. For Russia there are river cruises and sometimes Black Sea resorts - Sochi. When the Germans think of visiting Russia, these are city trips to Moscow or St. Petersburg.
I’ve never been to Russia yet. I only have to find a reason to come.
Detlef, Sputnik is the reason to come! (laughing)
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