Hotelschool The Hague's alumna, Ellen Schmid, is supporting the launch of Premier Inn into the German market.
“Ellen was a truly excellent student showing above average aptitude in many areas such as leadership, finance, professionalism and attitude. Besides reaching very high grades in many subjects she managed to reach a 97 for her final thesis which is extremely rare. Ellen was also a student assistant for the Board of Directors (once again; a very exceptional opportunity never given to any other student before). Ellen then started her career as an Analyst and not surprisingly she got promoted fast to Managerial positions. From brand manager Marketing to currently a Strategic position responsible for the development of the entire chain of Premier Inn in Germany.”
To begin with, a quote written by Mr Paul Griep, Director of Alumni and Industry Relations at Hoteschool the Hague. After studying hospitality management at Hotelschool The Hague, Ellen started her career working at a strategy consulting firm, Eden McCallum, for 1.5 years. She was then recruited by the UK’s leading budget hotel chain Premier Inn as Strategy Analyst and the fourth employee within the Germany market entry team. In this role, she supported the definition of the distribution strategy including requirements for the new premierinn.de website, as well as the operating and labour models for the first hotel.
However, the main challenge in the pre-launch period was to define and make adjustments to the product to best serve the German hotel guest, while retaining large parts of the proven proposition that works so well in the United Kingdom. Some of the adjustments included: changes to the bathroom fittings (German guests like detachable, hand-held shower heads rather than fixed overhead showers); duvet choice (a large proportion of German guests prefer two single duvets on a double bed); breakfast offer (getting the quality of bread right was key); distribution (German guests still heavily rely on the phone to make bookings or get information).
Ellen was destined for rapid progression, and when the opportunity arose to take over the Brand & Marketing function, the team did not hesitate to ask her to step in. In this role and without prior marketing experience, she managed the marketing budget of over €1.3 million, built a marketing team from scratch (recruitment and line management of 4 people), and owned the relationship with the German marketing agency as well as internal stakeholders. Ready for the brand launch, she defined a marketing strategy that ensured that the German brand was aligned with the UK vision, but was executed with local flavour and in line with the brand’s challenger status.
The team’s hard work bore fruit when soon after its opening, the first Premier Inn hotel in Germany at Frankfurt Messe began to collect fantastic guest reviews and climb to the top of Frankfurt’s TripAdvisor rating, ranked at number 1 out of 274 hotels in the city. The awarding of the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2017 and the Travellers’ Choice Award in 2018 were further proof of the team having built a hotel proposition that resonates with the German hotel guest.
After two years in the marketing role and Premier Inn’s pilot hotel maturing in line with expectations, Ellen was keen to take on a new challenge. With all signs for Premier Inn’s potential for success in Germany looking positive and a secured pipeline of 14 hotels, the business was looking to accelerate growth. Ellen was given the opportunity to drive this in the role of Strategy & Business Development Manager, reporting to the Managing Director Property & Premier Inn International at Whitbread PLC. She is now responsible for Strategy (e.g., business planning, network strategy, distribution strategy, etc.) and proposition development, enabling the business to unlock new growth segments through changes to the product and the business model. Last, but not least, she is responsible for M&A, looking for opportunities to grow the business through the acquisition and conversion of suitable hotel portfolios in Germany. The first successful deal was announced in February 2019, with Premier Inn’s acquiring a hotel operating company with 19 sites that will be converted into Premier Inn hotels upon completion of the deal in 2020.
As one of the longest-standing employees of the young Premier Inn Germany team and drawing on her strong hospitality mindset, Ellen is often called upon by teams in the UK and Germany when it comes to interdisciplinary projects. Examples include the setup of a call centre and guest relations function for Germany, and the design of a team vision based on the Premier Inn’s culture that can be easily shared and explained to all levels of the organisation.
Ellen is based in London, allowing her to work closely with Premier Inn UK and Whitbread Group functions, but spends a few days twice a month in Germany to work with the German head office team in Frankfurt.
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