“Human beings possess a high level of ingenuity”
Interview with Diane Pentaleri-Otto, Director of International Sales at the Estrel Berlin
The eventcrisis-team has spoken with Diane Pentaleri-Otto, Director of International Sales at the Estrel Berlin, to discuss the ongoing changes within the business meetings industry and its future. She is convinced that our industry is well on its way of navigating through this crisis and that we must continue to keep matters of sustainability and our work-life balance in sight.
Eventcrisis: Can you give us a brief introduction of the Estrel Berlin – for the ones who are not familiar with it yet?
Diane Pentaleri-Otto: The Estrel Hotel was opened as Germany’s largest hotel back in the mid-nineties. Since then, it has grown and expanded to become Europe’s largest “all under one roof” hotel, congress, and entertainment complex. With more than 260,000 sq. ft. of function space, over 1,000 hotel rooms and its own show theater, the Estrel Berlin has established itself as a major player in today’s landscape of European event properties.
Can you share some of the challenges and changes you are currently seeing within the meetings industry?
The MICE sector has perhaps never experienced as much immediate change as it has in the last three months. Not even the introduction of internet technology in the late nineties can compare to the level of change we are currently experiencing. We have certainly learned a great deal from all of this. Clearly, the grown interest in virtual platforms has been one of the most significant changes. As a result of COVID-19 many of us have finally gotten our minds around how to implement and participate in virtual meetings. This has been a very positive experience. At the same time, however, we have also seen the shortcomings of online platforms and have been reminded of the fact that whilst these platforms can provide adequate alternatives, they still cannot make up for the face to face interactions and live meetings we are used to. In the future, more consideration will be given as to which meetings are best held face to face, virtually or hybrid. From a sustainability standpoint, this will certainly be a positive development.
Is there anything specific that your property is doing these days to address the health challenges and concerns that we are currently dealing with?
I have to say, it has been very exciting working at the Estrel these past few months! I have been truly amazed by how our property has proactively and swiftly responded to the needs of a changed industry. In the earliest days of the pandemic, all departments literally put their heads together to outline the initial framework of a COVID-19 compliant event delivery concept. Surely, this swift and flexible response was due in part to our private ownership and our straightforward lines of communication. By May 1st, we were already testing this concept with an event with 500 participants. Additional events have followed since and they have enabled us to further fine tune our event delivery concept Distance at its Best. As Darwin would say: It is not the fittest who thrive, but rather those who are most able to adapt to the demands of the current situation. The Estrel has been doing a very good job of this.
Do you have any advice for planners who are nervous about group bookings?
First and foremost, I would say “Stay optimistic!” Human beings are solution driven and possess a high level of ingenuity. We are already well on our way to navigating through this crisis and we are finding ways to enable the continuation of meetings. We invite all planners to take a look at examples of safe and successful event deliveries and are confident that they will feel reassured that meetings are in fact possible. All of us must be open to new formats and technologies that enable human interaction.
What would you say are the top three lessons learned from this crisis?
Without question we have all been reminded that we are social creatures after all! We enjoy coming together, whether for a small meeting or a global congress. We have learned the special value of face to face meetings and we have also learned to make better use of technology, which enables us to effectively work from home. This is terrific from a sustainability point of view. We have also reset our work-life balance button and we have learned that we are very, very good at finding solutions.
Let us continue on this path of finding solutions that enable the appropriate form of events to take place while also keeping sustainability and our work-life balance sight.