Madis Laid's Story
I have travelled a lot but the first country I visited was England and that is my favourite. I stayed in Stoke on Trent, which was quite rough but I loved it because it was small and for me, it was the gateway into hotels, where I worked as a night porter, breakfast chef, receptionist and duty manager.
That was the first time I could see the bigger picture, that working in a hotel does not consist of one job. People have a very narrow view, they think reception is the only option in hospitality and don’t see that the industry is 300%, 400% bigger; the possibilities are endless from IT to finance, from reception to sales manager. That was when I realised I had many paths to choose from.
I was a bit restless, afraid that if I chose one role, did it for a couple of years and then if it was not right for me… but this was perfect because I could move upwards and feel free, and at the same time choose a position without being set in stone – for a young person that was very important.
However, there is no place like home and after taking jobs in several countries, I felt strongly I wanted to be in Estonia. I have been back in Tallinn for around four years and it was the right choice.
I’m very hands-on; I like talking to guests. Ibis gives me that opportunity because we have compact teams and I am able to cover many positions at once and remain involved in operations; everyone does three or four jobs. You do your daily tasks in an upbeat environment and every day is different.
I am not travelling at the moment because I am concentrating on family. Also, I am a board member of the Estonia Hotel & Restaurant Association; I’m giving back to the sector and focusing on how to recover from the crisis. We are also looking at how to market the country to get more tourists here, to show off the landscape, food, hospitality – we need get more visitors and show what we have to offer. We have a population of 1.3m people, so Estonia is a tiny part of Europe, and we have to market it really hard.
The main change I’ve seen is in technology and the move to digital. I like the old school check-in, when I can talk to people and try to negotiate an upgrade. I do understand the need to go to digital and I’m sure ordering taxis will stay on an app rather than making a phone call; we need faster solutions and covid accelerated that.
The difference I like the most is that hotels are no longer strictly graded 2, 3 or 4-star. Now, the ambience of lifestyle hotels is most important and people are looking for a hotel with authentic service.
Instead of having a big room with a lot of facilities inside the room, guests are becoming more sociable, they like to work and hang out with like-minded people in the lobby, café or restaurant, so the feel of the public areas is important. I like the way this is going – from luxury to economy segments. Guests’ needs are not changing; regardless of the class of hotel you work for, they are looking for good service and a good night’s sleep.
We are in the people business, we don’t sell brooms, we sell a good night’s sleep, that’s the main ingredient; everything else is secondary and it will follow naturally.
It takes passion to join the hospitality industry and the main ingredient is service and interaction with guests; you meet different nationalities and cultures, it is in the industry’s DNA. The second part is the satisfaction you get from the ability to be flexible, to manage your own time, whether you are getting a degree or wanting to work full time, there is the chance to try different positions.
To anyone not in the industry, start today and try everything! In hospitality, the most important thing is the team. When you talk to someone in the industry, most of them will say, my friends work here. It’s the magic ingredient and even if you are working alone on a shift, you meet and socialise with other people; I still have friends from when I started in hospitality and from every place I have worked. Servicing guests unites people because you work with one goal, to make guests happy.
- Madis Laid
- General Manager
- ibis Tallinn Center (Estonia)