Kresimir Krezo Of The Imperial On Why Cork Will Always Be His Home

By Robert McHugh
Kresimir Krezo Of The Imperial On Why Cork Will Always Be His Home

Robert McHugh speaks to Kresimir Krezo, general manager of the Imperial Hotel, ‘the Grande Dame of Cork.

The Imperial Hotel in Cork City has a history going back over 200 years, and is Cork’s very first hotel. In that time, the hotel has welcomed many notable guests, including Charles Dickens, Princess Grace of Monaco, Daniel O’Connell, Frederick Douglass, and the late Maureen O’Hara.

The decadent hotel offers spacious modern boutique rooms, as well as a luxury spa, the popular Sketch restaurant, and other on-site dining options, including Lafayette’s and its bar, No.76.

The Imperial was acquired last year by the Louis Fitzgerald family. In August, Kresimir Krezo was appointed as its new general manager, and he is responsible for guiding the establishment through a continued phase of growth and transformation.

Krezo previously held senior roles at the Great Southern Killarney, Lough Eske Castle, Dalata, and, most recently, Luttrellstown Castle Resort. He originally worked his way up from bellboy to front-office manager in a five-star hotel in his native Croatia, where he enjoyed the buzz of the hospitality industry.


He moved to Ireland in 2014. It was initially not a long-term plan, but Krezo fell in love with the Irish people and has been living here for the past four years with his wife, Ashling, and now his newborn daughter.

Hospitality Ireland spoke to Krezo this week about his journey in the hotel trade and why, despite speaking four different languages, North Cork will always be his home.

You started with the Imperial Hotel in August. How have you been settling in so far?

It has been good – challenging, obviously, with the current environment, but it’s a well-established team here and a well-known hotel with a 280-year-old history.

It’s been smooth sailing, to be fair.


Tell us about your background – where you grew up, studied, etc.

I am from Croatia, originally. I grew up inland, but I moved in the late 2000s to the coast. I did hospitality and hotel management in college there for four years, and I worked, at the same time, in a five-star property.

I started as a bellboy, and I fell in love with the hotel industry. Over the years, I got into a front-office manager position, and then moved into operations. An opportunity came up to manage a small property as well – a boutique type of hotel. I then moved into larger properties that were more tour focused.

In 2014, I decided to gain a bit of international experience. The idea was to choose between the Middle East and Ireland. I picked Ireland due the similarity [to Croatia] in the culture and the way of living. People might find it funny, but I love the climate in Ireland – I am not a big fan of heat. I worked in the Sheraton for two years.

Due to family reasons, I went back in 2016 to Croatia, to open a hotel as a GM. I just felt homesick, to be honest. Six months into it, I just couldn’t adapt to the way things are run in Croatia, economically and politically, and all that kind of stuff.


I came back to Ireland, and not long after I landed – maybe a year later – I met the first love of my life, and I have been in the country ever since. I met the second love of my life in January, [when] I had a baby.


Thank you. After I came back, I joined the Great Southern in Killarney and became involved in the transition of the hotel – so, restructuring, standard operating procedures, and bringing up the standards – and then, two years after that, I joined Lough Eske, in Donegal, as a deputy general manager.

Ashling was still down in Kerry, so there was a lot of commuting. I then joined Dalata in Cork in the same capacity, as a deputy general manager, and then, before the Imperial, I was in Luttrellstown Castle Resort as the director of operations.

Does Cork feel like home now, or does it depend on the hotel?


Cork is home. We bought a house two years ago, and we have been based in Cork for the last five years now. So, yeah, Cork is home now – even though my wife wouldn’t agree!

Going back a little bit, what drew you to the hospitality industry?

I knew from the start, I wanted to do this. Look, when you are young, you see all the flash and glamour. I was in a five-star hotel in a red overcoat with golden embroidery and all that. I didn’t mind it one bit. Everything that followed – the finesse and the attention to detail, learning new languages – it was just what I wanted to do. I wanted to make that difference for someone.

If you do something small for a guest, they sometimes remember it five or ten years later. It’s those small details that make a big difference.

What do you consider your first major role?

I would consider the role in in Croatia, where I managed a small property, my first major role. It was a lot of responsibilities for someone that young, I was only 26. It can feel like a burden on your shoulders. You also feel that you’re building a team, that you’re leaving your imprint on everything they do, the way they act.

I would say that was my first big role, but, obviously, I learned from every single role I had in Ireland, to be honest. Every one of the properties I’ve worked for had different kinds of strategies, visions, and business mixes. Maybe that’s helped me to be an all-rounder. I have experienced five-star luxury and four-star business, so I have that nice mix that maybe helps me settle in easier.

In your experience, what makes a great hotel?

A gentleman once told me, “Business is straightforward.” It is common sense to have a clean hotel and good customer care, and I do believe you just need to pay attention to the details and look after the guests, essentially. I think that makes a difference.

If someone acknowledges you as soon as you step in through those doors of the hotel with a smile, if someone is engaging with you from the get-go, that makes the difference in a hotel.

What are the challenges in hospitality at the moment?

It probably wouldn’t be fair of me saying that it’s generational, but people don’t tend to engage in conversation any more, as they used to. Technologies, as much as they help, cannot replace that personal connection and contact with people.

What are the main opportunities?

I still love hotels because you get that opportunity to speak to people all the time, to engage one on one.

There are no phones, no iPads or laptops in between you and a guest. I am 100% sure that the hotel business will be the only business in the future that will always have that personal touch. You’ll never be able to replace that with AI or anything similar.

What are your own personal ambitions, then, within the industry?

My personal ambition is to grow the business. We went through a change of ownership last year, and I am proud to say that we are still an Irish family-owned hotel.

That is how we will run the hotel, as an Irish family-run business, and we will welcome everybody into our Imperial family as we see it.

Long term, I am quite happy where I am. I would probably like to go into more growth-level roles in the future, but that’s long down the line. It is not something that has occupied my mind at the moment.

What do you like to do when youre not working?

Well, currently, I have an eight-week-old, so there’s not much I can do, to be honest, because I spend all the time with her, which I love. It fuels me.

When the time allows, I love to go for a swim. I love to travel a lot. I speak probably four languages, so I love to go to different places, exploring different cuisines and different cultures.

Family time is everything for me. I’ve been raised that way – that family is everything – and I hope that is mirrored in the teams I manage and, ultimately, the guests that I meet, but, currently, everything that’s in my head is my baby girl, and I just love spending time with her.