Interview: Živorad Vasić, IHG Regional Manager

04. April 2019
Interview: Živorad Vasić, IHG Regional Manager

Živorad Vasić graduated from the Boston University in the departments of Hotel Management and Finance, and at both departments he gained the status of Magna Cum Laude. He obtained the title of Master of Science in the field of economy and financial indicators in hospitality. During his career in Serbia, Vasić was the GM at Hotel Continental in Belgrade, he was the manager of the entire Delta Company’s portfolio for hotel and business units, and since 2017 he has been the youngest regional manager of the InterContinental Hotels Group. As a successful manager in the hotel industry, he has won numerous prestigious awards, and at the XV Forum of Hoteliers held on Zlatibor, he was declared unanimously for the Hotel Industry Leader, under the brand of Ambassadors of Quality Service. It was a good reason to talk to Živorad Vasić, a leader who sets, develops and defensively defends the standards of his ambassadorial profession. We wanted to discover the secret of his success and to transfer it, first of all, to young people. Here is what we have found out.

● We hear the news of your education, rich career and business success almost every day, but what would you say as someone in a high position (or positions) at Delta Holding, and since 2017 at the IHG Company as well: who is, in fact, Živorad Vasić?

- Živorad Vasić is a man who came from the USA 10 years ago, who didn’t know anyone and was placed in a small office in the former Genex, with two other associates. Now, 10 years later Živorad Vasić is– Žile, and what I am most proud of is that I have 7.243 contacts in my phone! This means that Žile Vasić is primarily a good person, extremely wealthy because of all the people he knows,who are his close friends, associates, colleagues, people he hangs out with… I'm really proud and happy that I know so many wonderful people in this world.

● What drives you? What is your strength?

- What keeps me going are good people, energy and desire to be always better, I myself and my team as well. I'm sure there is no other hotel that has so many valuable people who know so much about hospitality, who have seriously improved and learned a lot to get to where they are now. And I think that the key to our success is precisely in them - my associates. I am powered by fantastic energy and the desire to spend time with all these people, to learn new things from them, to share my knowledge and to be a person who changes, if nothing else, then at least the hotel industry in Serbia and much more, I hope.

You can always do better and more

● What are your life and business philosophies?

- My life and business philosophies differ one from the other. My life philosophy is that somebody can create mostonly when they are happy. I am powered by being close to my family, first of all, I mean the good marriage, the son I love a lot, the brother who is successful in the other sphere of business, to the parents who have raised us so that we are good people who appreciate and respect other people. My life philosophy is to keep nurturing all these values throughout my whole life.

On the other hand, my business philosophy is that there is no limit, that we can always be better and do more, that a person should never be satisfied with what they have achieved, because what you have achieved means that you were able to do that, and what you have not achieved is what makes you hungry to be even better.

● What are the most important features of the leaders, in your opinion? What is your leadership mission in the hotel industry?

- The most important feature of a leader is that they have enough strength and energy to make difficult decisions at any moment, to protect their team when business situations and the environment are such that support is needed and, perhaps the most important: to create a team that can answer all the challenges, a team of people who can make decisions on their own and do not have to ask their leader for every single thing.

Education is important, but…

● Where does education belong on your scale of values?
- I think degree is very important and the example of that is Germany, where it is no longer possible to get a job in a significant position if you don’t have a master degree.

However, when you start to work, you realize that everything you have learned at college, in practice, looks much different.There are many business programs, master business programs, or MBA programs as they are called in America, at the best world schools where you can learn most. In one place, in the same program group there is, for example, a hotel manager or vice president of Delta Holding, CEO at Coca Cola, manager at Microsoft for Asia and former minister of foreign affairs of Argentina. And when you sit in such an environment, what you can learn is one thing, and the number of contacts that you can make for your whole life is something completely different. And when you analyze it, you know that it's an incredible success to be on such a program of prestigious schools like Harvard, Kellogg and others. But for such a thing it is necessary to find not only money, but, above all, time, because you must devote time to learning for at least a year or two. But the knowledge you can get is–incredible. Education is important, but much more important is the type of education,where and in what kind of school.

● Who are your role models?

- There are many of them, but they are, above all, my father Dragan, my uncle Zdravko, who invested a lot in the education of my brother and mine abroad, and our company president Miroslav Mišković, with whom I have the privilege to spend  incredibly long time and have the opportunity to learn from him a lot on a daily basis.

● Where do you see the biggest challenges in your career?

- I do not think of challenges because the challenges are daily. Many times I think that the day will be fantastic and relaxed, and then the challenge happens - and vice versa. I would like everyone to think like me, i.e. not to think about challenges, but to think about what they want to achieve. Maybe it sounds ridiculous, but every year I write on paper where I want to be in three years, and when those three years pass–I look at that paper and check how successful I was in my plans.

In fact, the challenges should not be considered. They simply appear or do not appear. And all those who constantly think about the challenges lose a lot. That’s why one should simply get out of bed being positive and say: I will solve a challenge if it occurs.

Also, what I learned is the following: I used to get very annoyed if I could not solve some of the challenges the way I imagined. Now I do that less, because I no longer spend energy on being nervous, but I try hard to think and solve in that way an increasing number of challenges. Proper directing of energy is always good.

Results I'm proud of

● From your point of view: what marked 2018? What are you proud of and what would you like to change?

- I wish I could change everything that I didn’t do well and where I made mistakes. And I'm sure that each person makes mistakes,it's a matter of whether one wants to admit it or not. What I am particularly proud of is that Crowne Plaza has achieved by far the best results in 2018, that in the first year InterContinental in Ljubljana had more guests and double the price compared to all other hotels in Ljubljana. And that's fantastic. We have improved the operation of Holiday Inn and Belexpocentar since Delta bought them. Belexpocentar has been rented for 147 days, and before we bought it, it had only 25 booked events in a year!

● What do you expect in business 2019: which projects will be brought to an end, and which will be started, if it’s not a secret?

- We're going to finish and open Indigo Hotel. I sincerely want to believe that we will sign a private - public partnership with the city of Belgrade and that we will start renovating the Sava Center and that we will start building InterContinental Belgrade.

We need to be united

● What is your assessment of the future of the hotel industry in Serbia? What do we miss, where do we make mistakes,what should be done, and why should we be satisfied for, unlike others?

- I think that the hotel industry in Serbia has a good future in some segments, and in some it doesn’t. Where there is no infrastructure, it's difficult to develop a hotel business. What Belgrade needs to do first is to find a way to equalize prices with countries in the region. Ljubljana, Zagreb, Bucharest, Sofia, Vienna and Prague have much higher prices than Belgrade, and we can and should change that. I think there will be more tourists in Serbia, and that Belgrade will become an incredibly interesting destination. There are many beautiful and important things happening in Belgrade, the museums are being opened, cultural and entertaining life is fantastic, and there is Air Serbia which has opened several direct lines. Today, guests do not have to come the day before and leave the day later. When we finish the congress center, with all international chains and hotel brands, we can say that Belgrade is a metropolis that provides much more than any other city in Southeast Europe. That is why it is now necessary for all hoteliers and people in tourism to be consistent so that Belgrade has the level of prices that are in the region. I think that we miss more cooperation and that is where we make most mistakes. A serious and modern congress center will bring us together and make all hotels and hoteliers work together. I can proudly say that I have a very good relationship with all my colleagues – hotel managers in Belgrade. Although this is a digression, I want to say that Belgrade still lacks more women at hotel management positions, such as, let’s say, Slavica Bogosavljević. It is necessary to change the percentage of women's participation in top management who are now 90 percent men and 10 percent women in favor of women, because they have that special sensibility, very important in the hotel industry.

● And finally: is leadership a burden or a blessing?

- I think leadership is a blessing, not a burden. Of course, it is necessary that everyone knows their place, or whether they can be a leader or not. The worst thing is when people who don’t have a predisposition to be leaders tend to be one. Leadership is a burden to these people. Luckily, for most people who are good leaders in Serbia, leadership is a blessing.  I would like if there were as many leaders as possible who think in the same way as I do.

Ljiljana Rebronja

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