Brothers Andreas and Christian von Oven are the power behind Germany’s Coast Collection, a small portfolio of boutique hotels and hospitality businesses. Running hotels is in their blood – their family has been in the business since 1908.
We caught up with Andreas von Oven, Executive Director of Coast Collection, to hear more about the job he loves, taking the brave decision to open a new hotel in 2020, and the reasons behind his decision to adopt Duetto and embrace a cloud-based hotel tech stack.
When did you open your first hotel? And when did Coast Collection officially launch?
We opened our first hotel and our golf course at Timmendorfer Strand in 2010. Strandgrün Golf & Spa Resort has 83 rooms and it's classified as a three-star superior. Five years later, in 2015, we bought a hotel in the neighborhood in Lubeck, called Hotel Strandschlösschen. It's a small hotel located on the beach and it has 31 rooms. It's a holiday hotel, which is furnished in a beach resort style. Then, two years ago, we took over a hotel at Timmendorfer Strand called Hotel Yachtclub. It's a four-star hotel with 62 rooms and a Michelin star fine dining restaurant, Balthazar. And the last hotel we opened last year in October, in the heart of Munich. It's a lifestyle hotel, called Unsöld’s Factory Hotel. It has 62 rooms all furnished in a factory style.
Every hotel has its own history, has its own style. And that's the reason we are called the Coast Collection, because every hotel is different.
That’s quite a brave move to open a hotel last year. How did that go?
It was difficult last year, but we had signed the contract one year before, when we didn't know about COVID. We have a small team there, so the costs are not too high and we were able to go to market quickly. Hopefully it will run well.
Were you able to keep all properties open during COVID? How did you change strategy to adapt to COVID-19?
We had the first lockdown in March, April, May 2020 and we had to close for two months. Then we opened and we had a good summer season. Since November, we have to close all the hotels again but we hope that we can open in the next month.
During the closures we have done a lot of renovations, we received our Michelin star, improved our website, and invested in our technology. So we have stayed busy.
Unsöld’s Factory Hotel in Munich is currently open for business travel only, but the occupancy is low – just 20%.
Tell us a bit about the technology changes.
We came to Duetto last year and before that we changed our PMS from Oracle to Protel Air. Since we are with Duetto, we are very happy because last year we increased our average room rate about 10 to 15% in each property. After the lockdown, the guests didn't book very early because they were afraid of the cancellation fee. But we had a good summer, so in the end we were able to increase the room rates.
Now we have Protel Air and Duetto – both cloud-based. This has been very positive. Now, when we are in lockdown, the reservations department can work from home. So that's also been very good for us. They currently work two or three days a week at home and we are taking reservations from mid-May. I hope that we can open by then.
How have you been using Duetto to help you with that?
We have been using many features, including short-term forecasting and AutoPilot. Our hotel managers are in the application every day, looking at prices, pick up, channels. They work very well with the system and it's very comfortable for them. They can do the job quickly with Duetto. It’s wonderful.
Of the hotels that you had open last summer, which ones performed the best? And what trends did you see?
The Hotel Strandschlösschen, which is our smallest and only offers rooms with breakfast, worked very well. I think because guests were concerned about going into restaurants. Also it has a great location and nice rooms. There was no need for huge F&B areas during COVID – people wanted to be outside, in the city, at the beach, and this hotel performed very well.
Coast Collection also offers SmartGuest. What can you tell us about this technology?
SmartGuest is a small start-up we started about six years ago. It’s a company that helps Coast Collection and other independent hotels with digital solutions. For example, we have a loyalty system program for our guests to get points or benefits. Another program is a voucher system that can be used online. And thirdly, we have a guest comment tool. So when the guest departs our hotel they get an email requesting their comments.
You also have apartments, the Oven wine shop and two golf courses. How has business been for these services? Have these helped subsidize the hotel business?
The hotel businesses as our main business, unfortunately, but through COVID the golf course remained open longer than the hotel so we got some revenue for the golf course, which was very good. Locals did not visit Spain or Italy last year. So they stayed in Germany and played golf here. And that was what was good for us. The apartments enjoyed good occupancy. And the online shop did well too. A lot of people were buying more wine through the internet. We saw this trend and started with digital wine tastings. We even did one with Duetto.
Last year there was a lot of domestic tourism. Are you expecting something similar for 2021?
Yes. It was mostly domestic travelers, but that is our general market. Traditionally, we may see 5% of our market coming from Denmark or Sweden, but in 2020 it was just from Germany. The domestic market will remain interesting because people don't want to fly so much. So I guess in the next year, the domestic market will be a very important part for tourism across Germany.
And finally, what are your hopes for the rest of this year, and for 2022?
I hope that the hotel industry really quickly returns to the level of 2019, and that hotels survive this crisis, but I don't think that the COVID will disappear from the world in the next year. So I think that we have to learn from this virus so that we don't have to go into more lockdowns.
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