Scandic Hotels AB

I'm looking forward to visiting Scandic Hotels since I've been staying at many of their properties. Think Holiday Inns and you've come close to categorizing this chain of three and four star properties. Matter of fact, besides the 106 Scandic hotels in the Nordic countries, they also operate 14 Holiday Inns elsewhere in Europe. Revenues in 1998 were over $600 million with 6,700 employees.

I've visited the head offices of most of the world's biggest hotel chains and for the most part have been very disappointed in the lackluster receptions or in some cases, lack of reception. This from an industry specializing in the hospitality field. Hilton gave me the bum's rush, ditto for Marriott, Sheraton and Westin. A big exception being the Four Seasons in Toronto, Canada where I was given a great reception-even though they hadn't received my advance material. My reception at the Ritz-Carlton's Atlanta offices was only so-so but they had good reason: I showed up the day it was announced Ritz-Carlton had won the prestigious Malcolm Baldridge award and the place was being swamped with phone calls and bombarded with visits by the national media.

Scandic occupies floors 4,5,10,11 and 12 in a 16-story charcoal-colored, high-rise about four miles from the city center. Siemens, the German powerhouse, had the building built in 1961 and has since moved out. It's no wonder; the building is looking worn and dated.

Erika Ring, the receptionist, is very nice but it's somewhat frustrating talking to her. Besides greeting visitors she also answers the switchboard phone and she's wearing one of those headphone gadgets. This means when she starts talking and looking at you it doesn't necessarily mean she's talking to you. On the reception counter there's a bowl of fruit and the flooring is wood (which is standard fare for Swedish companies). Encased in a wall is another item, which is very big with Swedish companies: a fish aquarium. The reception area is small and visitors sitting in the three black chairs can watch a switched on television.

Though I'm told they have no record of receiving my introductory letter sent a month ago, I'm most fortunate to have Mona Andersson, from public relations, answer questions and show me around.

About 170 employees work on the five floors. Meeting rooms are named after famous Vikings and explorers. Smoking isn't allowed in the offices, there's no corporate art collection, no recreational facilities and no cafeteria--although there is a break room. Any good perks? Employees can stay at Scandic properties for $40 a night.

The Leif Ericsson Room doubles as the boardroom. The table is oval-shaped and it's a wood floor. I count seven tombstones and make note of the telescope and chessboard in CEO Roland Nilsson's office.