How the Aria Hotel Budapest Became the Number One Hotel in the World

By Adele Gutman VP Sales, Marketing & Revenue, Library Hotel Collection | April 23, 2017

Before the first shovel was in the ground, we knew Aria Hotel Budapest would be an extraordinary hotel. For the Library Hotel Collection and our founder, Henry Kallan, creating a hotel that is beyond ordinary is everything. We think about each detail of the design and experience to create wow factors for our guests. These elements generate rave reviews, and rave reviews are the cornerstone of our marketing program. This is how we became the #1 Hotel in the World in the TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards.

The Design

  • First, Design With Love

First we start with the design. Henry always dreamt about returning to his Central European roots to build not just a beautiful hotel but something really special for the people of Budapest. For him it was not about business, but rather his love for the city. It had to be a work of art, a hotel unlike anything they had ever seen before, for one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Hungarian master designer Zoltan Varro immediately understood and embraced Henry's dream to design a hotel to express the beauty and power of music, which is a passion of the people of Hungary. He poured his heart and soul into the task. His devotion can be felt in every area, from the curve of a desk leg to the touch of silk velvet.

  • Second, Details Matter

The hotelier, architect and designer collaborated with a perfectionist's attention to detail, to re-imagine a historical, 1870s building. We painstakingly rebuilt the seven-story Neoclassical limestone façade to replicate the beauty of the original architecture, some of which was lost over the years, to return the building to its historical place in our special neighborhood. At the same time we breathed new life and a bit of magic into the space that the old bank occupied while retaining the historic charm of our block creating a setting that even 25-year-olds love just as the most experienced world travelers do.

To provide a rooftop setting with 360-degree views of enchanting Budapest, instead of placing the mechanicals on the roof, we spent fifteen months digging beneath the building to put them underground. Now, that rooftop is a haven not only for guests but also for local Hungarians who come for evening cocktails or Sunday morning Harmony Rooftop Yoga.

To give guests the experience of sitting in an interior courtyard with views of the heavens, Henry spent $1,000,000 to remove the enclosed roof and install a clear glass "StarDome." This architectural marvel is the only all-glass dome in Europe without any steel support. From the Music Garden Courtyard you can watch the clouds waft by, the rain drops ping and the moon rise.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.