From taking orders in a busy Biergarten in Bonn, Germany to running Revenue and Distribution for the largest Swiss-owned hospitality company, Sorell Hotels, Anne Schwarz has come a long way in her career but remains humbled by genuine acts of hospitality.
As Director of Revenue & Distribution at Sorell Hotels Switzerland, she has been part of a company-wide tech overhaul that has seen the company change out its PMS, CRS, Channel Manager, and RMS.
Here, we catch up with Anne to discover more about her career path to date, her most memorable guest experience, and what one piece of advice she would give to anyone starting a career in hospitality today.
What was your first role in hospitality?
I started my hospitality career, like most of us working in the industry, in a food and beverage outlet. I worked in Bonn, Germany, at a traditional “Biergarten” with more than 200 seats. As you can imagine, it was a stressful but amazing job. I was fascinated by the frequency and the number of guests visiting every day. At that time, you still had to write the orders on paper. None of the processes were digitized. It’s great to see how the industry has developed in terms of efficiency and digitization.
What was it that attracted you to the hospitality industry?
It has always been the character and the diversity of the industry. Hospitality offers a place for all different types of people, which makes working in it a very special experience.
Early in my career, I was highly motivated by the possibility to travel, to see and experience different cultures, which I did not want to miss out on. Thus it led me to internships and jobs throughout Europe and even as far away as Australia.
Tell me about your career journey so far?
After my very first experience at the Biergarten and some time at Hilton Düsseldorf, I studied Hospitality Management at the International University of Applied Sciences in Bad Honnef.
After my studies, I started to work in F&B Management, because I was thrilled by the power, lifestyle, and character of the F&B areas of the hotel, which is often referred to as the “soul” of a hotel.
Yet I knew that I wanted to pursue my passion for analytics and numbers. Therefore I decided to further develop my skills and knowledge with a move into the field of Revenue Management with InterContinental Hotel Group. I started from scratch with the basics of revenue management; from manually interpreting, analyzing, and reporting the correct numbers up to understanding the algorithms and solutions of available helpful tools, such as Revenue Management Systems. My first role in Revenue Management was at Hotel Nikko, a vibrant hotel setup with 400 rooms and meeting facilities situated in Düsseldorf.
I then moved onto a multi-property role at Leonardo Hotels until I moved to Switzerland. Here, as Director of Revenue and Distribution, I am currently in charge of the Revenue Management and the Distribution landscape with Sorell Hotels Switzerland, the largest Swiss-owned hotel group.
What has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge has probably been the past couple of years during the pandemic. Just at that time, we had to integrate a new PMS, CRS, Channel Manager, and RMS, all at the same time. Integrating all parts of the new tech landscape, making sure our hotel staff gets familiar with the new systems under very special circumstances, and getting the yielding aligned was a very big challenge.
And what has been your biggest success or career highlight?
I remember very well our financial year 2019. It was a great success for Sorell Hotels. 2020 was calling for an even bigger success. We all know what happened next – due to Covid19, it was crucial to adapt to the new situation and to react accordingly. We understood that we had to attract new markets which were only a niche in our previous portfolio.
I am very proud of what we achieved and how we grew our market share during the challenging times. To give you a specific example, we created new room types, such as the “Kids Rooms” to attract families and developed attribute-based selling methods. Also, the optimization of our channels has shown its success and I am proud of how we managed to re-position some of our hotels in a short time and to continuously fine-tune our pricing methods.
What has been your most memorable experience as a hotel guest? What made it special?
I have been fortunate to stay at quite a few hotels that are renowned for their high standards and facilities. You go there with a high expectation and – if all goes well – you leave happy. The most memorable stay, however, was at a random hotel on a road trip. The hotel was quite small and was not famous at all. The host was so genuinely welcoming. They even asked what we wanted to eat and went to the market just to prepare exactly what we wished for. The room was decorated with so much love. It was just great to see truly loved and warm hospitality when it was maybe least expected.
What one piece of advice would you give to anyone considering a career in hospitality today?
Keep your goals in mind. Working in the hospitality industry can be tough and requires a long breath now and then. Remember that whatever you do, it is all about hospitality and to enjoy giving great moments to people – both guests and your team. Also, keep your eyes open for the fast-changing environments and make sure you keep up to date with trends and technology.