Q&A: Meet Timo Gruenert, chief executive of Oetker Collection
Oetker Collection has appointed a new chief executive. Dr Timo Gruenert now heads up the brand's 10 hotels: Le Bristol Paris; Brenners Park Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden; Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Antibes; Château Saint-Martin & Spa, Vence; The Lanesborough, London; L’Apogée Courchevel, Eden Rock - St Barths; Jumby Bay Island, Antigua; and Palácio Tangará in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
In this introductory Q&A, he talks about his travel memories and future plans.
Q: Describe Oetker Collection in one sentence
A: We operate exceptional hotels – true Masterpieces – with family spirit, elegance and genuine kindness.
Q: What makes you get up in the morning?
A: The thought that, by doing the above, we create a strong emotional bond with our guests. Our hotels are places that people really care about, and that become a part of their lives. That may sound idealistic, but I know that this is indeed the case for many of our guests – and employees. Working for a company that can realistically achieve that, and being surrounded by a team of passionate hoteliers who share the same values and goals, is extremely fulfilling.
Q: What is your earliest travel memory?
A: A three-week bus tour across the United States that went all the way from the west to the east coast. I must have been around ten years old, but the experience was so poignant that I could fill pages writing down specific memories of that journey. Years later, when I was in high school, my father took me to The Breakers in Palm Beach. That must have been the experience that hooked me for the industry. The grandeur of that hotel was simply overwhelming.
Q: You are taking the reins as CEO at an unprecedented and challenging moment. How will COVID-19 change the hospitality industry?
A: That is a difficult question. I guess we are all just starting to get a sense of what the long-term effects on the industry will be. Having said that, there is one thing I am sure about: this crisis has reminded a lot of people what is really important in life. Spending time in airports and planes is not; being able to spend quality time with the people you love is. My initial feeling is that we should see this as an opportunity for our industry. Qualities like sincerity and kindness will gain in value and building meaningful connections will perhaps become more important than “the next big experience”. I certainly consider our Masterpiece Hotels to be in good standing once we manage to overcome the immediate crisis.
Q: Where are you headed first when travel restrictions are lifted?
A: Probably to Paris. The majority of our corporate team is based there and I really miss seeing my colleagues. Afterwards, I think I will visit our two properties in the Caribbean – Eden Rock - St Barths and Jumby Bay Island. The region just recovered from Hurricane Irma in 2017, and I want to show my appreciation for the dedication that our teams are showing there every day.
Q: Your daily routine for a free Saturday?
A: I get up with our one-and-a-half-year-old daughter when she decides it is time, then go downstairs and make breakfast with her. We listen to nice music – my playlist, not hers. From that point onwards she makes the plan for the day and I am anything but the CEO, believe me.
Q: A leadership principle that is very important for you.
A:Treat everyone the way you wish to be treated.