Due to different flights and accommodation, all the group members met for the first time for breakfast at the Café Benedikt in the city centre of Odessa. The diverse international menu exceeded our expectation and with full stomach our city exploring could begin.
After returning home, we suited up and left the apartment to visit the Restaurant Datcha, the location of our first business meeting. Valeriy, the restaurant’s manager, welcomed us and led us to our table in the beautiful country house garden. Datcha is a well-known restaurant of a gastronomic institution in Ukraine. Its history is characterized by a locally famous ballerina, who lived there and brought modern culture into the neighborhood. In 2004, Savva Libkin founded Datcha and the restaurant flourished in the following years. Today, in summer seasons the restaurant offers 600 seats and 60 employees take care for the guests with great passion.
After graduation in the field of economics, our interview partner Valeriy started his career as a waiter. Soon he made his way up in the industry. He took the managerial position at Datcha and today he is part of the success of the unique gastronomic experience. Against our estimations, not only Russian and Ukrainian, but many more cultures influenced the typical Odessian cuisine. In Datcha, ingredients are produced locally. Events like weddings, family reunions, birthday parties and even kids cooking classes make the Datcha a venue for everyone. In high season, three out of five guests are from abroad, while in the low season mostly locals visit the restaurant.
Considering marketing, Valeriy sees word-of-mouth recommendations as the most valuable asset for acquiring and retaining guests, especially by bringing friends from other cities like the capital. Currently, he sees modern approaches in social media, his Facebook performance is remarkable. For the future, he is very optimistic that the guest rate will be rising or at least remain stable, so changes in the business model are not intended.
Furthermore, we addressed the topic staff and vocational training. He sees challenges in the seasonality of tourism, which leads to cutting the winter staff from 600 to 100 employees. On one side, he is providing on the job training and mentoring program for each waiter. On the other side, language skills are not promoted, in his own words due to 'laziness among locals'. An important attitude is 'a leader teaches new leaders and this leads to great appreciation and motivation for the daily job and future career, as there is a chance to climb the ladder'. Unfortunately, employees tend to quit after few seasons already to look for another career path in another city as well as abroad.
Additionally, politics is not favoring the establishing of a sustainable tourism framework. Lack of resources to maintain and restore infrastructure, weak support in entrepreneurship and self-employment and missing collaborations among businesses and politics leads to individualism and decrease of public welfare. Reachability by air is restricted by the lack of direct flights from Moscow or big cities from Western Europe, which makes travel uncomfortable. When asked about public transport, he responded with big surprise. In Odessa, taxi and other ride services are central, public transport plays almost no role for tourism and his restaurant in general. This showed a contrast to many western cities, where a reliable public transport system is crucial for economic growth in tourism.
In conclusion, Valeriy plans to go ahead with his current business model and forecasts future success by improving small details in the process. He does not expect governmental support in establishing sustainable tourism. Our main learnings from this incredibly interesting interview were the experience of interviewing a tourism service provider in general. Positive aspects are the open-minded, honest and hospitable interview partner Valeriy and the impressions of his charming place.
If you want to know more about our trip to Odessa and how we planned the following days, make sure to visit our website where you can find all the detailed information.
Kevin Stäuble, Studierender im 5. Semester der Bachelorstudiums Tourismus, war während der Study Week für die Kommunikation nach aussen verantwortlich und hat durch tägliche Blogposts die Aussenwelt über ihre Projektwoche informiert.