Reservations Manager, Mercure Warszawa Centrum (Poland)

Iwona Surała

Iwona Surała's story

My path into hospitality was not easy because I tried to go to university after high school but that did not happen, so I worked in a hotel instead. That was in 1989 and was supposed to be for one year and it is now 2024!

I started at the Grand Hotel in Warsaw, which belonged to Orbis – famous Polish hotel chain which started operating in 1920s. I worked during the communist era, so it was very different but I enjoyed hospitality from the beginning and it became my passion. I am almost 60 but I feel good and I know I am good at what I do. I have a husband and sons but I also have work and that is my second family.

It is very important for young people to have work: life balance. After work you have to have an interest to pursue, family, someone who loves you, reading; work is very important but it is not the only thing. For example, I travel a lot and I inspire young people who come into the hotel that there are many opportunities with Accor, including super discounts at other properties. For example, I have been to India, Thailand, Mexico, many countries. If you have plans for your life, you can pursue them at Accor.

A hotel is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on every holiday and every weekend, so it is a bit crazy! I sometimes compare it to a hospital emergency department because every day is different, some days the pace is quite gentle and on others, everything is upside down. Sometimes you have to be creative; for example, recently, we had technology problems, including with check-in and check-out, and we had to resolve that and make sure guests were satisfied.

Every day you are rubbing shoulders with lots of people, including your colleagues, and sometimes I try to help them; I like to make people happy. Sometimes that is easy, it can be quite a small thing. If they want to know which is the best restaurant or museum nearby, even though they could look it up on the internet, they ask me because I have the experience and can advise them.

I am a reservation manager and for many years I worked at the front office as receptionist and duty manager. After that, I moved to a quieter back of house role in reservations. And even though I work behind the scenes, I still like to help the front desk if reception has a problem and I come to see the guests. My life is not just about paper and emails, I love seeing customers and talking to them.

Although every day is not the same, people often ask the same questions and you have to remain polite and make sure they are happy with the answer.

Customers have a huge choice of hotels to stay in but we, the staff, have the power to keep guests so that they stay in our hotel. Location is the number one factor but then it is service, and that is down to us. When we are looking after guests, we smile and are friendly, and make them feel at home.

I am proud to do my job every day; it is my passion.

A Heartist® has a passion for being a hotelier and for working for Accor. Every day our warmth and enthusiasm are the same but our job is not the same; it is inspiring. Heartist means being open to others and nothing surprises you anymore; and we are helpful towards guests and colleagues alike. After the pandemic, I saw that guests and staff were changing and now there is the opportunity to reassure guests and make them feel welcome because some of them are still nervous.

My advice for young people who are new to hospitality is to smile even on the phone because people can hear that in your voice. I know that in reservations when guests cannot see me but they can hear that I am smiling. And at work, treat other people as you would like to be treated.

  • Iwona Surała
  • Reservations Manager
  • Mercure Warszawa Centrum (Poland)

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