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Exclusive: behind Best Western’s Yarra addition

Walter Marcheselli - Owner Best Western Yarra Valley, Warburton VIC and Best Western Hotel Cristallo, Italy2

Best Western has welcomed Oscar’s on the Yarra to the group, introducing the rebranded Victorian hotel as Best Western Yarra Valley. Set on 20 acres on the Yarra River, the 4-star hotel is located in Warburton’s leading wine region, 65 kilometres east of Melbourne.

Best Western Yarra Valley is a 22-room boutique hotel recently restored by architect and designer, Jack Fugaro. Built in the 1920s, the property’s period features have been carefully preserved, with chic modern furnishings and vintage chandeliers among the interior highlights used to deliver a truly authentic experience.

Hotel owner and Best Western International member, Walter Marcheselli has more than 35 years industry experience across hotel operations, food and beverage and regional tourism in the Venetian region. This year he celebrates 25 years owning and operating his first Best Western hotel, Best Western Hotel Cristallo in Rovigo, which joined Best Western Italy in 1989.

HM talks to Marcheselli about his hotel experience and if he plans to open more hotels with Best Western in Australia.

HM: How long have you worked in the hotel industry?
Walter Marcheselli: I grew up in hospitality. My mother and father worked in hotels and restaurants from when I was very young. I’ve been in the industry 35 years.

HM: Your first hotel was with Best Western in Italy. Do you still own this hotel today?
Marcheselli: Yes I work out of Best Western Hotel Cristallo in Rovigo, Italy. I owned it for five years before branding it with Best Western. This is its 25th year with the brand and I’ve been the owner during this time.

Best Western Hotel Cristallo, Italy

Best Western Hotel Cristallo, Italy

HM: Why did you buy an Australian hotel?
Marcheselli: I’ve always been attracted to Australia. It has beautiful countryside, food and friendly people. It was a dream I had from when I was young to have a hotel here one day.

HM: Tell us what you have planned for Best Western Yarra Valley?
Marcheselli: I was happy when I saw the opportunity opened for Oscar’s on the Yarra. Its location is beautiful and it has a very distinguished restaurant. Hotels need quality restaurants and guests in Europe expect a restaurant to be part of the overall hotel experience. I think food and beverage should become more important in Australian hotel operations. It can leave a lasting impression.

Best Western Yarra Valley dining

HM: Why is the restaurant, Oscar’s on the Yarra an important hotel feature and what will you add?
Marcheselli: Although I grew up in Italy, I worked in restaurants across France and England. I have always had a taste for great quality produce and wine. Mark Krugar, our executive chef at Best Western Yarra Valley is doing a very good job of bringing this quality element to the restaurant. Mark has recently returned from south east Asia where he headed up restaurants in 5-star resorts including The Tongsai Bay and Six Senses Hideaway Thailand. He also worked at the Sofitel Melbourne and the award winning Marylands Country House. Mark is from Australia. He knows how to cook good quality Modern Australian cuisine very well. It’s a huge advantage having a chef of his high calibre on staff. I plan to organise a few chef events into the year. I’d like to bring from Italy one of my executive chefs so we can add an authentic Italian experience to the menu.

HM: Walter, you’ve seen many trends in hotel operations come and go. What do you think is now the most important thing for Hoteliers?
Marcheselli: In the past, owners of the hotels made all the decisions by themselves in regards to what they thought the customers wanted. But now with TripAdvsior and social media, hoteliers need to take notice of what the customers say. Customers have greater input to what they expect from their stay. Word of mouth is more important as ever.

HM: What has been the most noticeable difference between Australian and Italian hotels?
Marcheselli: In the city, hotels are the same. But in the country the Australian small hotels, shops and restaurants close in the afternoon. In Italy, small town businesses stay open until the evening. This affects customer movements – it brings good opportunity to offer more to do onsite at Australian hotels into the evening.

Best Western Yarra Valley exterior

HM: You’ve mentioned bringing out an Italian chef for new F&B events. Any other ideas at this stage?
Marcheselli: We are always researching to find the latest innovations for our business in Italy, to provide our guests with the best experience. Once I understand more about what guests at Best Western Yarra Valley want, I will have a chance to share my knowledge from Italy to Australia as soon as there are any new developments.

HM: Internationally, what is in store for Best Western this year?
Marcheselli: As Best Western increases the number of hotels in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji there will be more opportunities to promote the brand and more possibilities to have a stronger presence across the region.

HM: There’s discussion in the industry that large hotel chains are killing off boutique hotels. Your latest Australian hotel is classified boutique, and Best Western lays claim to being the World’s Biggest Hotel Family. So, how is Best Western any different?
Marcheselli: We don’t operate using a standard cookie-cutter model and this is one reason why we can offer different experiences in each country. Our hotels look different and are independently owned. At Best Western Hotel Cristallo, I can help the customer with any problems, big or small and I train my staff to see through the eyes of the customer. Forming a relationship which invites return visits and recommendations again and again is very important. We are lucky we can do this at Best Western.

HM: In your experience, what defines the perfect hotel stay?
Marcheselli: When the guest feels comfortable, at home and at ease with our service. That’s when you know they’ll leave with a lasting impression.

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