Agnieszka Kalinowska's story
I can say without a doubt that hospitality is not only my passion but also my lifestyle for over 30 years now, and I would not change a thing looking back. Hospitality is the industry with people at the very heart of everything we do, every day – no matter the location, no matter the brand, no matter the team. I always loved to connect and interact with other people, be social, share exceptional moments together and make unforgettable experiences. That is why I quickly found myself in this field, and have stayed devoted to the industry ever since.
Over that time, hospitality, the same as the whole world we live in, has drastically changed, but putting our guests first stayed the same. I can say that I am happy to be a part of history, especially in terms of the Polish hospitality market, and also the industry growth in Eastern Europe as well. I worked at the very first Accor hotel in Poland, the Mercure Fryderyk Chopin, located in the center of Warsaw, which unfortunately does not exist today. Since then I’ve observed and taken an active part in growing Accor’s portfolio in the country and other cities. So I can even state that as my career was developing, so was Accor’s network in the country.
Now in 2023, as I am responsible for PR, media marketing and communication for not only Poland but also other 17 countries of Eastern Europe, seeing the dynamic growth and expansion of the hospitality and tourism industry is very rewarding. I am glad we can have our input in promoting wonderful destinations in this part of Europe which is still undiscovered, bringing wonderful brands and interesting projects to these markets.
If I look back to the industry in the 1990s, it has changed so much. The way we spend our days is a lot different but I am glad that despite the transformations the passion for connecting with people and human-to-human interactions, especially after the pandemic, has stayed the same. It shows that only the surroundings are changing but the core is the same as the time goes by. People still long for making memories and experiencing unforgettable moments in an exciting atmosphere.
One of the biggest shifts I have experienced was the increase of using digital technologies and the Internet. Digital activities are highly influencing our industry, with increased online streaming and virtual meetings, more self-service offer and products, and cashless and contactless payments. People today broadcast their everyday lives at the moment through social media, everyone wants to be included and show everything they do.
In hospitality digitalization always played an important role in supporting the everyday activities of our teams but today stable internet connection has become one of the key factors in deciding about a comfortable stay. Guests need to have a good internet connection during their time spent at the hotel. We knew at Accor that the usage of digital and online technologies will increase over time, which helped us to implement it in a way that helped us elevate our relations with teams and guests across the world.
We have always seen digitalization as a technology with humans at heart – to improve communication rather than replace it. It has proven its big efficiency, especially during a difficult period of pandemic years, when thanks to online solutions we all can stay connected, and that is truly what hospitality is about, and I am happy it hasn’t changed over decades.
I am definitely a doer – both at work and in my private life. I always had the mindset that there is always a way, and every day gives us countless possibilities. I like to think that the impossible does not exist, in fact, to be specific the word itself says “I’m possible”. I always keep my mind open to expand my horizons, gain new knowledge and understanding to be inspired and endure in many exciting projects. That is why I love to research a lot, because information is power, and it can help you a lot to find a way to overcome even the hardest obstacles. In fact, throughout my whole career, I was always motivated and inspired by any challenges. I faced them with passion and confidence.
I like the same attitude in other people I work with, which is very important in the PR and media field. You have to be creative, passionate and also devoted to your job. In fact, right before the pandemic started I took the challenge of undertaking the role of managing PR activities, media relations and communication in one of the biggest sub-hub in Accor’s structure – Eastern Europe which consists of 18 diverse countries.
As a person with international experience, but strongly connected to one market, managing 18 media markets sounded like a big challenge for me; however, I tend to see every challenge as an opportunity. The most challenging thing was the huge diversity of the region, where without a doubt I can say every country is different, specific and unique. This diversity was one of the main challenges to overcome. Even though the region is called Eastern Europe it consists of Baltic states, Slavic countries and the Balkans – each of them with a different language, culture (also in terms of work and cooperation) and tradition. Most importantly, each country with completely different media market. Each of the markets is also differently saturated in terms of the media landscape.
For example, we have countries where there are 4 media titles for our target groups, so having 5 or more pieces of coverage from distributing press release there is to be considered successful. Without a doubt, finding a way to cooperate and connect with each other on similar terms and basis to secure successful outcomes was a challenge. We needed to adapt our way of working to the natural flow of each market and find common spots for fruitful cooperation and partnerships.
Today I am proud and happy to say we have managed to do so with great success, which is proven by the Eastern European region delivering the highest PR statistics within the region, thanks to the passion and devotion I was able to share with my local partners. It is extremely rewarding and satisfying.
Nowadays I am happy to continue this path supporting the development of Accor brands and properties in other countries, also ones that never had international hospitality chains before. Therefore I am actively engaged in boosting the tourism of Eastern Europe, which is very rewarding considering how much the region has to offer. I like to engage with people and create memories together through unique experiences. I am happy to endure this approach in my work by organizing media meetings and press trips across the region, meeting new people and creating meaningful long-term relationships full of mutual support. The hearty connections with other people where we can both support and help each other is something that I value highly in working with media. Seeing people smile, enjoying themselves, learning something new and making new connections is something that I find very rewarding. I am proud that my approach to communication works, and thanks to many activations and ambitious work of the development team we constantly raise the bar for us in terms of media and PR results and give great examples or success studies for other teams.
Managing such a big and diverse region sounded like a big challenge at first, but I am grateful for this opportunity. This experience definitely taught me that people can unite no matter the cultural differences, nationality or language. The love and passion for travelling, making new memories and connecting with new people is truly the universal language spoken very well in the hospitality industry.
I will always repeat that work in hospitality is for someone who likes other people. That is one of the key things to consider at the beginning of your career. If you like meeting people and interacting with them, you are passionate, caring and devoted – it is the industry for you. People are always at the heart of everything that we do and it has proven its point throughout changing times and challenging periods. The pandemic year was a huge challenge for the industry, and with the agility and flexibility of our teams, I think we passed this exam beautifully.
If you are open to opportunities and willing to take chances – it is a job for you. If you are looking for unforgettable memories, building valuable connections, meeting interesting people, growing and maybe even travelling the world – this industry is also for you.
Hotels are not only places to sleep, they are way more – people who make it a place to be, hang out, connect and interact, a gateway to new destinations, places to discover, and many more. This human aspect of our everyday work is what makes it rewarding no matter how hard it gets at times. It is not a job, but a lifestyle – I am happy and proud to call myself a prime example of it.
- Agnieszka Kalinowska
- Senior Manager Media Relations & PR Poland & Eastern Europe
- Warsaw Support Office (Poland)