Peer Norsell, general manager of Ananti Hilton Busan, speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald on Monday. (Kim Hae-yeon/The Korea Herald)
BUSAN – Even as the hospitality industry has suffered from a bruising COVID-19 pandemic, Ananti Hilton Busan at Gijang-gun, Busan, stands ready to offer staycation guests a comfortable, fun and relaxing stay.
A scenic view of the ocean by the balcony greets guests. The infinity pool -- one of four different swimming areas at the hotel -- is the largest among five-star hotels in Korea. An open kitchen buffet called Da Moim, meaning “everyone has gathered,” serves fresh seafood and barbeque, while the McQueen’s lounge bar with a panoramic ocean view offers its signature afternoon tea sets.
“Prior to the pandemic, we were gradually seeing more internationals coming in, but at the moment 99 percent are local guests,” Peer Norsell, general manager of Ananti Hilton Busan, said during an interview with The Korea Herald on Monday.
Norsell has been managing Ananti Hilton Busan since 2019, a year before the pandemic hit. Growing global interest in the K-pop, K-food, and K-entertainment industries had enticed curious travelers from around the world to visit Korea, Norsell said.
A Hilton man since 1999, Norsell climbed his way up from the position of a food and beverage assistant to operation director. He has served as general manager at different Hilton hotels from 2008, including Hilton Bandung in Indonesia and Hilton Adelaide in Australia before arriving at Ananti Hilton Busan.
Visiting Korea for several days on business trips and living in Busan long-term has been very different, Norsell said.
“I strongly believe real learning comes from living, and feel very blessed to have a 360-degrees experience, learning firsthand about the people and the culture of Gijang,” he said.
A view of Ananti Hilton Busan (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
Located between Haeundae-gu and Ulsan City, Gijang-gun was a fishing village with a relatively small population of some 170,000 before the county gained popularity in recent years with its local festivals and amusement parks. Cafes and shops for youngsters also followed.
“When we first opened Hilton in this location, many asked us why (here) as opposed to all the other popular destinations throughout the city. This county has so much more to offer than just the indescribably magnificent view,” Norsell said.
Beyond the hotel’s commercial operations, giving back to the local community and the youth is also part of the core values at Ananti Hilton Busan. Partnering with DreamStart schools in Gijang-gun, the hotel regularly invites students for meals, swim time and fun activities.
Coming up with donation ideas and providing prizes for local festivals is a big part of the annual events managed by the hotel.
“We always want to be engaged in what our neighbors are doing, and be good neighbors ourselves. We may be a global brand, but Ananti Hilton Busan thinks locally,” Norsell said, adding that growing together with the locals is extremely crucial for a wholesome and successful management.
Asked how Hilton is adapting to the rapidly changing scale and scope of the hotel business, Norsell answered with confidence, “Ultimately, it’s about being relevant and flexible. This means the ability to mix, match and blend to cater to a wide range of guests’ needs.”
Hilton’s 100-year history is only proof that it has been a brand that has been able to evolve countless times in order to remain relevant today, Norsell said.
By Kim Hae-yeon (firstname.lastname@example.org