ASTANA – Rixos President Astana held a Friend’s Party for partners and colleagues Dec. 11 as a way to show gratitude for their camaraderie and cooperation.
The Astana Times used this opportunity to interview the general manager, 48-year-old Luciano Sozzo who hails from Carmiano in the Lecce province in southeast Italy.
“I have been [in Astana] for nine months,” he said. “I like Astana and Kazakhstan very much because I like the vibe and energy in Kazakhstan. There are a lot of things to do and a lot of projects and opportunities and that’s very good.”
Sozzo, who has been in the hotel business for more than 33 years, previously held posts in Italy and The Netherlands and for the last two years as a general manager in Kharkiv, Ukraine. He admitted that the cultural priorities set by the country are somewhat contradictory.
“There is a bit of contradiction; on the one hand the country is developing very fast and on the other, there is this cultural trend that adheres to old traditions,” he noted.
Rixos President is located in the heart of the capital’s left bank, close to all amenities and in the centre of city happenings. Sozzo underlined, however, that despite being in the midst of a fast-growing and bustling city, Rixos sticks to preserving human relations and a homely feeling for clients.
“All the other hotels (I have worked for) were well recognised but (what makes this one different), especially for Kazakhstan, is the temper of hospitality, because Rixos President Astana is not just a hotel but a part of the community in Astana. It is not just a place where one goes to sleep and that has food, but a real live place for many other things. This hotel completely integrates with the city. Our bet is on human resources, that is our main capital and we want to invest in human resources because a product can be beautiful but without human interaction, it’s worthless. And this is what our clients appreciate. They come back because first of all it’s a beautiful hotel and has status, but also because of the service. They come here and they know our staff and are recognised by our staff as well. We make everyone feel at home, make them feel comfortable.”
The hotel has already undergone many changes under his management, but Sozzo does not intend to stop yet.
“In the past nine months we have changed a lot of things. We invested a lot of money to train the staff, to renovate some parts of the hotel and invest in some training programmes, but now our challenge is to start the new renovation because the hotel will turn 10 years old in 2015. We will celebrate its birthday and we would like to start the renovation. It is already an important hotel with a beautiful environment, [especially] the impact of the entrance alone. But what we would like to do is to create the most beautiful hotel in this part of Asia. It is very important to us,” he stressed.
As for the quality of the service provided at one of the top hotels in the city, Sozzo didn’t hesitate to explain why the administration under his management continues to hire foreign experts in the industry to train the staff.
“We invite people from abroad to train our staff and other staff in Kazakhstan. We want to have excellent butlers and one of the butlers we invited to train our staff, who was here in July, is the ex-butler of the Queen of England. We also invited an Italian specialist in revenue management to train our administrative staff. We will keep inviting specialists from abroad who we can’t find here, not for showing off but because we want to introduce new ways of service. That’s the main reason we want to invite foreign experts.”
“As for today’s Friend’s Party, I would like to say that all these guests interact with our staff on a daily basis,” Sozzo said. “These are our partners and this event is an opportunity to show our gratitude to them for their support and cooperation. We also want to establish human relations instead of purely business relations, because that can make a difference. We also wanted to give a tango master class because Dec. 11 is International Tango Day. This day is celebrated around the world and we decided to celebrate it along with our Friend’s Party tonight.”