Visit away brings home comfort

Celestial hotel sky gains addition of ‘three stars’
By Yekaterina Timofeeva

On visiting another city, travellers’ first thoughts are on where to stay. Unfortunately, for those coming to Belarus, including Minsk, the choice can be limited. Nevertheless, the situation is beginning to change, driven by 2014’s Ice Hockey World Championship. The capital is opening several new options, with one of the first ‘swallows’ on the horizon being the comfortable three star Hotel Garni, located in the centre of Minsk.

Currently, 40 Belarusian hotels have star certification, with just two awarded the highest status of ‘five stars’: the capital Crowne Plaza Minsk and the Europe. These are joined by three four star hotels: the Hotel Minsk, the Victoria and Vitebsk’s hotel complex of Luchesa. However, 27 hotels hold ‘three stars’ across Belarus. “We do lack enough places to stay, of course, but many projects are being implemented: private and public, with foreign investments,” stresses the Deputy Director General of Minotel JSC, Nikolay Ganul. “Competition will increase, providing an incentive to raise the quality of services. On checking out, we need to make guests feel that they’d like to return.”

The Hotel Garni is located in an historic building, on Internatsionalnaya Street. “We’ve begun from scratch, reading a lot of historical literature and planning the details with the designers,” explains Mr. Ganul. “Consultations with specialists have helped to avoid design errors in furnishing the hotel.” Over a period of two years, Minotel has been renovating the historic building in the centre of Minsk, transforming the previous administrative building. It’s about 70 percent complete, with businessmen from Russia and other countries already making bookings, alongside tourists — mostly from Europe, Turkey and China.

Why is star certification important? Firstly, foreign visitors can use the rating to gain an idea of the level of service and comfort. Meanwhile, online booking is convenient and, accordingly, increases bookings. According to Gosstandart, certification of hotel services, with World Tourism Organisation classification, began in 1999 in Belarus. Each site has to demonstrate that it meets state health and safety standards, while ensuring the security of guests’ possessions. Classification of hotels is commonplace in most CIS countries and, since 2008, has been obligatory for hotels wishing to display ‘star ratings’ in Belarus. Certification lasts for five years, with hotels receiving annual inspections to verify compliance. 
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