We caught up with Hotel F6 General Manager Roni Saari to discuss his philosophy on hospitality, the hotel’s new Valpas in-room technology, and why he thinks Valpas helps him increasingly delight his guests.
It’s a chilly February morning in Helsinki, Finland. A shy ray of light lurking over the horizon tries its best to persuade me of a coming, premature spring. Yet within seconds, a frosty breeze reminds my cheekbones that winter gear is still very much on in the tech-forward and design-savvy Nordic capital. Despite the cold weather, there’s one warm place right in the heart of Helsinki that welcomes every guest with such hospitality that melts the permafrost around your toes.
It’s a busy Tuesday at Hotel F6. In the lobby, a young couple dressed in matching Canada Goose parkas is nonchalantly checking in; a group of kids is sitting on the floor on a velvety-looking carpet, playing Uno; and a larger group of middle-aged visitors is confidently heading out, a map of Helsinki in their hands. The friendly staff accompanied by Runar, the hotel dog, welcomes everyone with the same, sincere enthusiasm. Within half a minute I’ve heard sound bites of Japanese, Italian, Arabic, Finnish and English. At the same time, there’s a strong sense of place in the air that makes the atmosphere feel like home, like an exciting home.
At the hotel café (also called Runar), the locally-sourced Helsinki breakfast has just finished. Instead, I find comfort at the bar that offers some of the city’s finest drinks every day, all day. At a corner table, Roni Saari, the General Manager of the hotel, is sipping coffee. He looks pleased and has every reason for that: the one-and-a-half-year-old hotel has quickly become a guests’ favorite and ranks #1 on Tripadvisor for the whole of Finland. Today, I’ve heard Mr. Saari wants to share a secret that will help him keep the prestigious #1 place most hoteliers only dream of.
Mr. Saari speaks of hospitality in a calm and collective fashion. Starting over 20 years ago at the reception of a Holiday Inn, he’s learned the tricks of the trade little by little and has since opened and run several award-winning hotels in Finland. His latest, Hotel F6, is his biggest accomplishment.
“Our philosophy at the F6 is based on having the right staff at the hotel and pairing them with high-quality hotel amenities, products, and services. Together, they delight our guests and ensure the experience is always exceptional. We never compromise. Quite the contrary, we believe in the power of “WOW”, striving to create it for our guests, and every time we see that in our reviews it makes us happy.”
Besides putting the guest always first, the #1 hotelier in Finland speaks of the importance of “thinking ahead”. “We keep questioning established practices and try to run the hotel as smartly as possible. For example, do we still need phones in hotel rooms in 2018? Can a television be just a connected screen? Thinking ahead ensures we keep creating the best guest experience over time.”
Not too long ago Mr. Saari doubled down on his management thesis and equipped all his rooms with the latest smart in-room technology by Finnish design and technology brand Valpas. Valpas makes the world’s first and only autonomous bed bug safety system for hotels, helping guests feel at peace and management keep up their reputation. The Valpas system is simple: each hotel bed is fitted with a set of smart bed legs that catch any bed bugs that may find their way to the room. This way, the bugs are caught before they cause any harm or grey hairs, and can’t spread. The system is automatic and room status is always on: the hotel staff receives a notification via a Bluetooth mesh network if any bugs are caught.
“Bed bugs are a problem all over the world because of increasing global travel. As a hotelier, you just have to face it that they might get here sometime, too. We also know that travelers are more and more anxious about them. With Valpas, we increase our guest experience by communicating that at the F6 you can stay carefree before the guests have even booked a room.” The product includes a ‘Valpas Collaborator’ certificate for the hotel, and Valpas also lists all their Collaborator hotels on their website for smart travelers to better find them.
Outside, Helsinki looks beautiful under the spring sun. We end the lively conversation by looking ahead to the future. Roni Saari sets a clear vision for the F6. “We want to remain the leading hotel in Finland and be #1 in the future, too. For that, we need to keep delighting our guests with the best experience.” The hotelier believes Valpas will help him with his vision in the ever-increasingly global and connected world of travel. “The smart practices that Valpas stands for creating trust between the F6 and our guests. Ultimately, Valpas contributes to our pursuit of providing the best guest experience by letting people travel and stay carefree at the F6.”