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I love this company

"ITB Hospitality Day" with the fathers & sons of Dusit Hotels & Motel One

ITB 2012 Zsfg CEO Sohn Panel vl Mueller Dieter und Daniel map Donavanik Siradej und Chanin  
Will the Junior become the successor? The answer was given at the end. Father and son of Motel One and Dusit Hotel were welcomed by Maria Puetz-Willems (centre) at the "ITB Hospitality Day". From left: Dieter & Daniel Mueller, Siradej & Chanin Donavanik.


Berlin (March 23, 2012). Today in the hotel industry, children do not particularly step in the footprints of their parents happily. They are primarily very well trained and sense more economically attractive opportunities in other industries. At the 7th "ITB Hospitality Day" at the ITB, Maria Puetz-Willems dug in deeply with two who still want to begin the inheritance of their fathers. Their fathers sat beside them and listened carefully to what the juniors think about them and the companies: Among the guests were Dieter and Daniel Mueller from Motel One as well as Chanin and Siradej Donavanik of Dusit Hotels. The meeting of two families.

Daniel Mueller (33) and Siradej Donavanik (26) are committing to the jobs of their fathers, indeed, they also have particularly good starting terms: One Hotels & Resorts CEO, Dieter Mueller (Motel One) and Chanin Donavanik, CEO and Managing Director of Dusit Hotels & Resorts, lead two major hotel chains and they are clearly guiding their younger generation gingerly.

"Unfortunately, I have not found a suitable mother/daughter pair", regretted the moderator at the beginning. But at least, "father" Donavanik had once taken over the Dusit Group from his mother who had founded the company in 1949.

  ITB 2012 Zsfg CEO Panel Donavanik Siradej
  Experience in financing/
investment: Siradej

Her grandson grew up with the hotel genes. Already as a youngster, he was prepared for a service career with jobs at McDonalds. In Great Britain, Siradej Donavanik later worked in the financial sector for four years. To him, it was quickly clear: "I rather like the hotel industry. I like to meet people and I travel with pleasure", he said. The Donavanik junior has learnt how exerting the work is in the operational area as a manager of a Dusit Hotel on the Maldives. "With this, I felt a sort of love-hate relationship," he described the situation. "The experience was important, but the pre-opening phase also a real challenge." The huge goal being to export the Thai hospitality. Today, he supports the Dusit company as Manager Investment and Development.

Gently guided, self-experienced

Daniel Mueller's education was also not entirely covered by the hotel industry. "But, my father procured my first internship at the hotel during the school period for me", he laughed. When the son had fun with it, he was then next permitted to work with the charismatic Accor Germany boss, André Witschi. In the evenings, he would always come back home from there with the words "I love this company". "But, my father has never lured me into the succession or directly influenced me", he said. "He did not explain it to me from my perspective, but from Motel One's. Daniel Mueller studied finance and general management and finished foreign semesters in Melbourne and London.

ITB 2012 Zsfgs CEO Panel Mueller Daniel  
Trained by Accor before
attending university:
Daniel Mueller.


Today, Daniel works as Director Operations with Motel One Hotels & Resorts. And he is proud of the life achievements of his father in the hotel industry. "First of all, a good boss is an example. This is my father in many areas, starting with the specialised knowledge. The methodology as he makes decisions also fascinates me. No decision is made instinctively. Mostly, it is a component of an Excel list", explains the son. Then, strategic goals compiled by the father would be discussed within the team. "My father, as a CEO, is very close to the staff. He is not the narcissistic CEO, but also has an open ear for everybody", praises the son.

Location choice with results

With Dusit, a great deal of value is placed on tight family cohesion. "My father teaches me many details of the business' and he recommends to me to keep my eyes open and to get to know people", said Siradej Donavanik. "We are a combination of generations, this is good", underlined his father.

Strategically, both are sitting in the same boat. The Dusit brand with its differentiations in Dusit Thani, Dusit Devarana, dusitD2 and Dusit Princess Hotels & Resorts should expand globally. The two have already looked at some key locations for this, even if they had accept some deep hits to their plans over the past months. "When we wanted to compensate for the political problems in Thailand with other locations, we made way to Egypt and on to the Maldives", smiled Chanin Donavanik. "Then the riots began there." Other Dusit Hotels are planned in Hainan (Dusit Thani, Dusit Devarana), New Delhi (Dusit Devarana, dusitD2), Pasadena, California (dusitD2) and Abu Dhabi (Dusit Thani).

  ITB 2012 Zsfg CEO Panel Donavanik Chanin und Siradej
  Dusit Hotels, a company with strong familiy ties:
Chanin & Siradej Donavanik.

Reverse trends in
hotel dimensions

"We look around everywhere in the world", explained Siradej Donavanik. He also pursues plans in California while his father is still convinced of the German market that his son has not yet really gotten to know. "Up to now, I've always only been to ITB, but I like German food and beer", he says. Fundamentally, the Dusit Managers have set out on a clear trend towards smaller properties. "It is becoming increasingly difficult to earn money with large, 500-room full-service hotels", believes Chanin Donavanik.

While Dusit has an eye on smaller hotels, Mueller also absolutely sees opportunities for larger properties: "I have always liked large hotels and have gained a good experience with their economic efficiency. It depends on whether the micro-location provides this", explained Dieter Mueller. The quality does not suffer from the size. "We have very precisely observed the assessments. Our largest hotel lies in third place of our assessments. It has a great atmosphere. This proves that it functions, but it is a question of the location."

Scepticism about British price models

Mueller explained the rapid expansion of the Motel One brand with the necessary critical mass for a chain. "In a national market, it begins at around 30 hotels. We see that we now have sales opportunities with the concepts. Therefore, we are expanding very quickly." Motel One has already had Morgan Stanley aboard as an institutional investor for some years. "For the German market, this was not so important at all", according to Dieter Mueller. "But the international expansion, particularly in Great Britain, benefits from it."

TB 2012 Zsfg CEO Panel Mueller Dieter und Daniel  
Discussions with family and management: Dieter & Daniel


Real estate investors abroad are always interested in the exit strategy and thanks to the institutional investors, Motel One has become exit-capable in the eyes of the UK investors. Father and son still face the British market with mixed feelings. "We have met an insider who has made it clear us that 70% of the reservations in Great Britain take place on the Internet. Along with this, the price only is decisive", explained Daniel Mueller. Local top dogs like Premier Inn have invested a lot of money in TV advertisement. Furthermore, yield management is worked on very intensely there. A room can cost 29 Euro on a Sunday and 179 Euro on a Wednesday.

Such fluctuations in the budget hotel industry are inconceivable for the Motel One Manager. "The Premier Inn CEO came from easyJet. They drive the pricing of the airlines. There is no brand loyalty there," explained Daniel Mueller. Mueller still wants to venture the jump over the English Channel with their current strategy. "Maybe the brand establishment will take longer than expected, but we will provide our values", he bravely states.

As few external investors as possible

Chanin Donavanik of Dusit also holds little for large price concessions: "Thailand was a weak market in a younger time. We have only given discounts there and not in other markets. Our new hotels will be in better locations", he said. The Donavanik family essentially faces external investors rather doubtfully: "We do not want so many external investors", explains father Donavanik, who today must still explain his strategy to his 90 year-old, thirsty for knowledge mother, who also studies the balance sheet and criticises debt at all.

  ITB 2012 Zsfg CEO Panel Donavanik Chanin
  From big to smaller hotels:
Chanin Donavanik.

In the meantime, the first Dusit fund was indeed founded and its development is carefully observed. Dusit itself ordinarily invests in the expansion, but management contracts are also possible. "We own most of our hotels, but this will decrease through the external expansion. We will also work together with external investors in some destinations."

In view: people

Fathers and sons agreed: The industry needs good staff for the protection of the future. Daniel Mueller: "We need them to be able to develop our brand. Though for Motel One managers, qualification and work experience are important, but in the end, this is subordinate to the personality and leadership ability." Daniel Mueller says that, fundamentally, the success factors of the hotel industry will still exist in ten years. "It is a people business." The subjects of hygiene and service also remain important. Sub-areas like the advancement of distribution systems up to mobile reservations will grow, but the basic factors do not change.

With Dusit, he had already begun investing in the education of quality staff members quite early. Chanin Donavanik: "My mother had already begun a consortium with the Lausanne Hotel Technical School. 20 years ago, she decided to found her own hotel technical school. This remains to be a good business today." He has just intensified the cooperation with Lausanne: Since January, 2012, he has compiled a new programme for an international bachelor's course of studies.

ITB 2012 Zsfg CEO Panel Mueller Dieter  
From smaller to big hotels:
Dieter Mueller. / photos: map


Both parties were also united among themselves because it is becoming increasingly important to fulfil individualised customer wishes. The time and energy involved in the customer analysis has risen. "Particularly with younger customers, there is a demand for sustainable resorts and we will develop in this direction", says Siradej Donavanik. Already today, Dusit has undertaken a great deal for environmental protection and among other things, there is the resort on the Maldives that has its own water bottling plant in order to be able to forego the importing of mineral water.

The Donavaniks need not fear the budget resorts of the Mueller family: "We are not planning such a thing", father Dieter limited. "A resort needs a surface area and restaurants. And budget concepts, as we make them, live on the optimisation of the surface area."

Who wants to become CEO?

The final question of whether they will happily take over the companies of their fathers was answered by Daniel with a clear "Yes"; the younger Siradej is still slightly halted. In the meantime, father Donavanik sees his son in the succession; father Mueller expressed himself a little more hesitantly on it: This does not mean a lack of trust in his son. But who knows, maybe Mueller has other plans for his company. / Susanne Stauss


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