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Vanja Desmonde, General Manager of Viceroy Kopaonik Serbia Hotel

Elegance, Authenticity & Hedonism

At Viceroy we’ve combined the essence of luxury with the natural beauty of Kopaonik, and our nomination for the Michelin key award only confirms the success of our operations ~ Vanja Desmonde

The opening of the first five-star hotel on Serbia’s Silver Mountain – Viceroy Kopaonik Serbia – less than three years ago served to improve the overall tourist offer with new gastronomic experiences, a unique design and relaxation facilities that weren’t previously available on Serbia’s most popular mountain. Here we discuss the Viceroy vision and future plans for the hotel with Viceroy Kopaonik Serbia General Manager Vanja Desmonde.

You’ve been at the helm of major hotels around the world, including hotels that belong to renowned chains, but also small, independent, almost family-business ones, and as of recently you’ve been at the head of Hotel Viceroy Kopaonik Serbia. How did you end up taking the reins at Kopaonik’s most luxurious hotel?

— My motto of seeing an opportunity to create something extraordinary in every detail suited the Viceroy vision, which is to create the best memories for our guests, providing them with the unforgettable experience of a five-star stay.

I believe that Viceroy Hotels & Resorts recognised in me the leadership prowess and organisational skills that I’ve acquired over my 25-year career in the hospitality industry. I’ve lived and worked in the UK, Russia, Georgia, Belarus and Czechia, and spent the longest time at the Marriott and InterContinental hotel chains. I’m now focused on the subtleties of the operations of Viceroy Hotels, which relate to innovation in gastronomy, as well as the provision of intuitive services that are unrivalled, in order for this hotel to continue setting new standards on the market.

This hotel is described, among other things, as an “alpine adventure with contemporary Western vibes” and as a “luxurious and modern building that simultaneously testifies to the Viceroy brand and guests who value originality”. Would you agree with that?

— I think that’s the right description and that our guests would agree. Carefully selected details bring a touch of West Coast glamour to this sunny mountain, alongside a local cultural and gastronomic stamp. I believe we’ve found the ideal measure of elegance, authenticity and hedonism, and confirmation of that is provided by our nomination for the Michelin key, which represents great recognition for Viceroy Kopaonik.

We are the only Serbian hotel outside of Belgrade to find itself on the prestigious list of nominees on the basis of criteria such as quality of architecture and interior design, comfort and level of maintenance, contribution to the local experience, as well as the quality and consistency of services. Moreover, Viceroy is Kopaonik’s only pet friendly hotel and we’ve strove to enrich the offer for furry friends with a special pet menu.

The season is in full swing and Kopaonik is packed with tourists. Are you satisfied with occupancy rates and – more importantly – are your guests satisfied?

— We are extremely satisfied with the number of guests again this season, and the fact that many of them are returning is the best confirmation of their satisfaction. It means a lot to skiers that the hotel is right next to the slopes, but they also enjoy everything that comes in the “package”: our après-ski time with the best cocktails at the Pique Ski Bar; the top gastronomic experience at this restaurant and our other Mountain Kitchen restaurant; spacious rooms with the most beautiful views; our intimate spa centre, library etc.

Nonetheless, you are right in saying that expectations are increasingly rising. That’s why we’re here to anticipate their needs, often even before guests explicitly express those needs.

Apart from luxurious accommodation, comfort, top cuisine and natural beauty, what are guests additionally seeking?

— That’s what I was just talking about. Guided by the notion that the guest is always at the centre of our operations, we nurture the highest quality of services, endeavouring to adapt the experience of the guests to their individual preferences. From the moment they wake up in their rooms, our guests know that they are staying at a Viceroy.

Viceroy is the only Serbian hotel outside of Belgrade to find itself on the Michelin list of nominees on the basis of criteria such as quality of architecture and interior design, comfort and level of maintenance, contribution to the local experience, as well as the quality and consistency of services

We offer them assistance and recommendations even before they ask for them, for example by arranging transport, making reservations or providing information about local attractions. It is precisely this combination of authenticity, luxury and harmony with the destination in which it is located that makes the Viceroy brand unique.

There’s no time to relax in your job, given that even now, as your guests enjoy the charms of winter, you and your team are already thinking about the next winter season. That’s a major challenge, but also an opportunity to be even better time and again?

— Absolutely! During one season, we work diligently to prepare for the next, in which we always try to be a step ahead of the competition, striving to further advance and perfect all aspects of our services. We monitor the needs of modern travellers in order to create an atmosphere that exceeds their expectations.

The feedback that we receive from guests is extremely important to us, because that forms the basis on which we constantly improve various segments. The vision of the brand is to remain synonymous with the top hospitality experience while adapting to the market and improving the local community. On these foundations, we are able to promise all our new and old guests an unforgettable world of adventures and modern luxury in the natural beauty of Kopaonik National Park.

A lot has been done over the course of the last decade to improve Kopaonik’s winter and summer tourism offer. Hoteliers have done everything in their domain, but is there anything the state could do?

— A lack of higher quality infrastructure is one of the challenges. Next, we would suggest more intensive cooperation between hoteliers and educational institutions in order to provide the highest possible quality of training for qualified personnel. It is also hugely important to promote sustainable tourism in order for us to preserve natural resources and support the local community in which we live and operate. We must all work on that together in order to ensure a sustainable future for this stunning mountain. Moreover, we should also work together to change the perception of the destination itself, because Kopaonik isn’t only a great place for skiing and winter sports. It offers various attractions throughout the year and I firmly believe that it will be even more attractive in the upcoming seasons, particularly for foreign tourists seeking new life adventures.

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