The Sheraton Ankara Hotel & Convention Centre is among the most well-known hotel brands in the city – and in Turkey in general – as well as being one of the oldest. Business Destinations spoke to Joerg U Limper, General Manager of Sheraton Ankara, who explained how the hotel has achieved and retained its status through hard work, dedication to taking care of guests, clients, customers and associates, and occupying some of the most iconic buildings in the city.
Alongside this, Limper also spoke about the changing profile of guests in the hotel, reflected on wider trends in the region, and on how the Sheraton Ankara – which has been named Best Business Hotel, Turkey in the 2016 Business Destinations Travel Awards – views the new culture of online reviews.
Sheraton Ankara is often said to be the iconic symbol of the city – why is that so?
Sheraton Ankara has been the symbol of the city with its cylindrical shape since its opening in 1991. The hotel is a significant tower dominating a public neighbourhood park, which is a reminder of the former Kavaklıdere wine cellars that were located in the open landscape. In order to emphasise the position of the tower, wide, open steps lead up to the Sheraton from the busy boulevard, where the entrance to the Karum shopping mall is located. A watercourse ripples along these steps, all the way from the top down to the round well temple. The hotel forecourt has also been designed as an attractive, roofed-over well.
Our meeting spaces have been created to inspire and provide the perfect setting for any event, while offering state-of-the-art equipment
In order to retain the luxury of the neighbourhood park, the large parking garage has been sunk into the sloping ground. The hotel is located on a historic site called Kavaklıdere: it is the sophisticated and intellectual face of Ankara. A visit to the Sheraton Ankara is a historical and trendy journey to the capital of Turkey.
What demographic of clientele are drawn to the Sheraton Ankara, and why?
After 25 years of building and nurturing relations with the community, Sheraton Ankara has succeeded in becoming a celebrated meeting place in the capital city. Highly esteemed state visitors, royalty, corporate CEOs, renowned international fairs and congresses, and talk of the town events have all been part of our history.
In the 90s, we used to receive more tourists on their way to and from Cappadocia, as well as other attractions in and around the city. Today we receive more tourists from the Middle East – primarily related to health tourism, which is a growing trend in the city. This trend and the city’s efforts to market the many shopping malls also add to the domestic and international clientele portfolio.
What are the hotel’s key milestones, especially with regards to enhancing the experience of guests?
Sheraton Ankara guests are sophisticated global travellers – socialites. They are successful, enjoy life and are connected. They also expect a flawless service while enjoying freedom in private and in business. The journey at the Sheraton starts at the Lobby Bar, continues to Brasserie One and concludes at Copper Sports Bar into the early hours of the morning. The 24-hour Health Club, with the latest fitness equipment and a large glass dome-covered pool, sauna and Jacuzzi area, as well as massage facilities, invite our guest to relax and rejuvenate. Our meeting spaces have been created to inspire and provide the perfect setting for any event, while offering state-of-the-art equipment.
What role does the skill and experience of your management team play in your success?
Skilled and experienced managers are an important factor in the success of a business. However, it is people who create successes, and a skilled management team is able to combine people’s skills and foster team work in order to create and achieve success, which over the years has been our mantra.
Travellers often look to online reviews to decide where to stay – how have your online review reactions been?
It is important to understand consumer trends and attitudes towards online reviews. More consumers read online reviews and, more importantly, people trust the online reviews as if they were personal recommendations. Word of mouth has been a powerful source of business referrals, but the speed of the internet has added a new level to the common practice. There are many articles on the internet – the studies, the numbers, etc – but behind all the figures is the human factor.
Whether a good or a bad experience, it is a guest or client of ours who has taken the time and effort to write and express their feelings. Mostly we receive positive feedback from our guests and clients. Mainly they appreciate our service, hospitality and ideal location, as well as the view from our Club Lounge, the well-equipped gym, comfortable beds and our associates remembering their name, which makes them be part of our extended family, as well as being located within walking distance from many main areas and features in and around Cankaya.
How does the Sheraton Ankara cater to the demands of guests looking for high-quality, local food?
Turkey is a very rich culinary country; we have fresh ingredients all throughout the year. Our chef and his team are taking these ingredients to prepare homemade, local tastes at our restaurants, as well as at our banquet operations. Our restaurant menu is composed of two parts and the larger portion is dedicated to local food: grilled plates, fresh Mediterranean salads, meze platters, cold vegetable dishes cooked in olive oil and Turkish desserts are our classics. For our Turkish guests, it is as if they are eating at home, and for international guests it is an experience that will not be easily forgotten. Our guests appreciate the seasonal flavours as well as established traditional fares.
Who are some of the most prestigious guests to have stayed at the Sheraton Ankara over the years?
We do have a long list of kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers. A quick list shows a very small selection of the VIPs we have had over the 25 years of operations. Included on this are a long list of royalty, such as: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh; Haakon Magnus, Crown Prince of Norway; Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, King of Bahrain; and Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, Emir of Kuwait.
Key presidents of some of the most powerful nations in the world have also graced us with their presence, such as former US Secretary of State and 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, as well as President Barack Obama. The former president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, has also been a guest.
Our best moment over the years was probably in August 2014, when we hosted 23 foreign delegations at the same time for the presidential change ceremony. It was unbelievably exciting, honourable and professionally fulfilling.