In this ‘in conversation with’ we meet Alex Živković. Alex is the General Manager at the Grand Hotel Brioni, Pula (read our review here) which has recently undergone a major refurbishment and is a stand-out establishment in the ancient city. Here he tells us more about his career, the up-side to stubbornness and offers some insider tips for guests staying at the hotel. Read on to discover more.
How did you discover that tourism and hospitality is where you wanted to carve your career?
Moving to Istria, Croatia as a child, growing up in an area strongly influenced and shaped by tourism, and having had the advantage of being raised bilingual in my early childhood in North Germany certainly helped in directing me to the tourism industry.
Of course, there have been numerous factors that have made it an easy decision to stay in the industry for so long and to keep the inner fire burning: the love for different cultures, the curiosity of learning and interacting in foreign languages, and most importantly, the sheer love to meet people from all over the world and make some great friendships along the way!
And please tell us about the journey so far.
That’s a funny thing because looking back, it really does seem like yesterday that I started my journey. It has passed in a blink of an eye, but I still vividly remember all the turning points and excitement I felt at different phases along the way. Today I look back at my career and am proud I stood the challenges and that I possessed the stubbornness to pursue my goals, which I think is a big part of every success story.
Your role as General Manager at the Grand Hotel Brioni Pula, a Radisson Collection Hotel must be a demanding and varied one, describe a typical day if such a thing exists!
It’s a huge satisfaction and honour to gain the trust and support of your company and its managing board to take a leading role in such an impressive property. Of course, there is some pressure with the job; you face different challenges each day – everything from conveying the philosophy of the brand to the team and making sure we reach the high levels of service that our guests come to the hotel for, to giving the team goals to work towards without losing sight of the human side.
The hotel has recently undergone a major refurbishment. What was the most challenging and rewarding aspect of this intensive two-year project?
That’s right. We started the refurbishment at the end of 2010 and finished in May 2022, and it was a long process of deciding all of the architectural aspects that we would like to and could incorporate, including using advanced technologies to make sure we are environmentally friendly.
The hotel’s unique position on the cliffside overlooking the sea inspired us to install our 60m infinity pool, complete with an overflow side wall to give the impression that it blends into the water beneath.
The most rewarding part of the process was seeing the end product. Grand Brioni truly is a place of beauty and elegance, masterfully combining 3,000 years of history and cultural heritage with Mediterranean values of gastronomy and music, to name a few.
Which three words best describe the Grand Hotel Brioni Pula?
Iconic, elegant, unique!
And do you have an insider tip for a first-time guest staying at the hotel?
There are countless things that our guests could enjoy to create unique memories during a stay with us, but there are a few special places that I think ought to be cherished for a little bit longer.
Watching the sunset go down into the endless horizon of the Adriatic is one of my favourites, especially whilst drinking a signature cocktail on the Lobby Brioni Terrace. Enjoying a meal in our fine dining restaurant, Sophia, is a close second, where the interior design is as elegant as the food. Last but not least, indulging in a treatment at Gemma di Brioni – the jewel in the crown of our wellness and spa centre, is something that shouldn’t be missed!
The Grand Hotel Brioni Pula is a Radisson Collection Hotel – what qualities does the group instil and how are these implemented to ensure that standards are maintained on a global level?
We are incredibly proud that Grand Hotel Brioni Pula is the first Radisson Collection hotel in Croatia. It is a clear indicator that the Radisson Hotel Group has recognized the hotel’s value, high standards, and potential, inviting us to enter its most luxurious brand – Radisson Collection.
Arena Hospitality Group, which celebrates over 50 years of successful business in the hospitality industry, has instilled the very best practices and knowledge into this hotel, gained throughout the years.
The hotel’s clear vision – inspired by heritage, and designed for the future – is a result of expertise gained through managing several bold projects. Each one provided new insights, and one that we are particularly proud of is our achievements in digital experiences for guests – today, Grand Hotel Brioni Pula offers high-end digital solutions for guests, including pioneering facial recognition.
And how does each hotel maintain its own character and means of operating?
Arena Hospitality Group currently manages 29 properties, including hotels, resorts, campsites, and a luxury glamping resort that is unique in Croatia.
It’s a complex ecosystem, and each property indeed has its own character based on various factors such as the accommodation type, geographical location, size, and brand. However, the key ingredient and our most important asset are our team members. They are the ones who make the difference, as their effort, professionalism, and passion become the most outstanding feature of each property, giving it a specific and irreplaceable touch.
I believe it is the result of the culture Arena Hospitality Group nurtures: to create an enjoyable, safe, and stimulating work environment with great opportunities for professional growth for all.
You’ve worked in hospitality around the world, what are the unique attributes Croatia offers visitors?
Being objective and not overdoing complements for your own country is never easy, but I think that Croatia as a tourist destination is still not as overexploited as some other countries on the Mediterranean coast. Preserving the attributes of beauty and untouched nature in our beautiful coastline has helped Croatia become a must-visit for sailors, divers and swimmers around the world and is certainly something we are immensely proud of! It has sun, sea, friendly people, and great cuisine… do you need any other ingredient for a good holiday!
Luxury is a highly subjective concept, what does it mean to you personally?
For me it’s the beauty created by the human hand, either art itself or unique items created with love and imagination. All the small things that create something out of the ordinary… singularity between uniqueness and beauty!
What is your life motto? (If you have one!)
Live it brave and bold – “the winner takes it all”!