Your motto should be: "I want to leave a legacy“

Frank Marrenbach is one of the most important personalities in the industry and was even named hotelier of the year by the AHGZ. As the managing director of Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden, he has hosted such notable guests as George Clooney and Bill Clinton. He told us why he loves virtual reality and how important it is to talk to the right stakeholders.

What experience with startups do you provide as a mentor in the METRO Accelerator powered by Techstars?

When it comes to the subject of “startups and founding”, I have intimate experiences from my own life that I can share: I was part of the founding team of the Oetker Collection, a company that came into being by consolidating 4 independent hotels. Back then we started out with 800 employees, today we employ about 2500 people in 9 international hotels. I am certainly no stranger to all the development processes that go on in between. The challenges you meet along the way – be it always having too few resources at your disposal, constantly having to adjust your structures or having to learn quickly and precisely – that’s what I have to offer as a mentor.

Where is the greatest need for digitalization in the hotel industry?

Digitalization has been in full swing for a few years already, and it started in the hotel industry relatively early. Today we have to make sure that we can display the “perfect digital image” or digital existence – that’s the crucial point for our industry. Because if we aren’t seen digitally exactly for what we are in reality, we simply don’t exist for many people.

Another important point is the simplification of transactions. That means that buying a product, or in this case, renting a room, should be possible – like on Amazon, etc. – with one simple click. With complex reservations, such as you have in five star plus locations, that’s not always so easy to put into practice. There is definitely room for improvement in this area.

Which innovation caught your eye recently?

Virtual Reality! It makes it possible for the guest to experience a world in three dimensions before the actual stay. Using this technology has just started in our industry, but I see incredible opportunities. Experiencing things digitally in three dimensions without being there yet. I am totally sure that that is an enormous opportunity for us.

Do you have any advice for startups?

Listen to important stakeholders! That means creating the right entourage of consultants, employees, opinion leaders, and above all also keep your investors in mind. I always recommend making a correlation between what the initiators would like and what the investors want. This is an issue where I often see a certain disconnect.

Another important point: a startup should not just be a startup waiting to be bought out as soon as possible. That’s why I always tell all founders to adopt an attitude of “I want to leave a legacy”. What I mean by that is that they should be thinking of longer business life cycles. It’s a question of attitude that is not just looking the next three to six months. A little more Old Economy attitude towards your own startup can never hurt. Not necessarily regarding how you do things, but definitely when it comes to how young companies organize their business long- and medium-term.

Frank Marrenbach is the managing director of the Masterpiece Hotel BRENNERS PARK-HOTEL & SPA in Baden-Baden. He has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Oetker Collection since 2008, one of the most inspiring collections of grand hotels in the world.

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