Anniversary Spotlight: CEO Rainer M. Willa Celebrates 10 Years at HotelPartner
Since 2013, our CEO, Rainer M. Willa, has been a pivotal part of HotelPartner, witnessing and shaping its journey through various milestones: expansion within the DACH region, internal transformations, sustainable business growth, and navigating the challenging times of the pandemic. In this interview, the seasoned tourism professional and graduate of the esteemed Swiss hotel school, “École Hôtelière de Lausanne,” shares insights into the highs and lows of this period, reveals his plans for the future, and offers a behind-the-scenes look into HotelPartner.
Congratulations on your 10-year milestone! We believe such a special anniversary deserves a fitting celebration. If your work anniversary were a holiday, how would you wish your HotelPartner team to celebrate it with you?
To commemorate this milestone and our journey so far, I’d love to throw a grand celebration with the entire team. It was perfect timing that we raised a toast to many wonderful moments during the first “HotelPartner Quality Time” last month, and even shared a waltz or two!
That sounds wonderful. Rainer, you weren’t the CEO of HotelPartner from day one. Could you tell us about your journey within the company over these past 10 years?
I joined HotelPartner in 2013 as Deputy CEO and took on the role of CEO in 2018. At HotelPartner, we’ve always believed that one can only be a credible leader if they truly understand the operational side of the business from the ground up. Hence, right from the start, I took on a portfolio and served as a Revenue Manager for Swiss hotels. I must say, developing strategies for hotels is a gratifying task that brings immense joy. Witnessing how the right strategies positively impact the hotels’ results, bringing about so much positive change for our partner hotels, is always a special experience.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed HotelPartner evolve and undergo various transformations. It’s been a fascinating journey! Early on, we collectively decided to focus on expansion and opened offices not only in Switzerland but also in Germany and Austria. This was a significant and correct move for our future – evident in the overall development over the last 10 years: in 2013, we had 120 partner hotels, and today we have over 500.
What contribution have you made to the development of HotelPartner that you’re particularly proud of, and how have you personally grown from it?
The biggest challenge in my time at HotelPartner was undoubtedly the COVID-19 crisis, which demanded a great deal of strength from us, but we emerged stronger than ever. This crisis marked the most significant turning point in the company’s history. I’m grateful that we used this tough period to set our course towards the future internally. This allowed us to emerge from the crisis strengthened and financially stable. While we had to make tough decisions, and this time demanded sacrifices in the hospitality industry, we can now happily say that we’re experiencing even better growth than before the crisis. This was certainly not foreseeable at the outset.
Personally, my naturally calm and composed disposition helped me during the COVID-19 crisis. It meant I didn’t make hasty, rushed decisions, but instead responded to challenging situations thoughtfully. This experience gives me confidence for the challenges ahead.
A tenure of this length suggests great interpersonal relationships. What do you particularly appreciate about your colleagues at HotelPartner?
I believe that HotelPartner fosters a very open and supportive environment. Whenever there’s something to be done, everyone pitches in. There’s no undermining of one another. Such honest, often even friendly, interactions are something very special to me, as I’ve experienced it differently in other companies.
Looking back to your first day at HotelPartner, what advice would you give to a new colleague?
At HotelPartner, things are certainly different from traditional Revenue Manager positions. So, I would advise new team members to be open to change and to benefit from the extensive knowledge of the existing team. For those who are curious, team-oriented, and not afraid of challenges, I can guarantee that the work with us will never be dull – and that’s the beauty of our profession.
Your own first day was 10 years ago. Yet, even after a decade, there might still be things the team doesn’t know about you. Would you like to share something with us that might surprise us?
Since I’m an open person, most people have a pretty good idea of what makes me tick – so I really have to think…
Well, something that might not be expected of me is that in my younger years, I was an ice skater, and quite a successful one at that! Arabesques, Salchows, Rittbergers – you name it. During holidays, I spent up to four hours on the ice rink every day. That was a lot of fun!
That’s indeed a surprise and an impressive hobby! Let’s now take a glimpse into the future: what would you like to achieve at HotelPartner in the coming years?
In general, it’s important to me that we continually develop our technology, the HotelPartner Performance Platform, so that we can consistently provide our partners with the best functionality and achieve optimal results. Additionally, the challenge lies in driving our expansion further in existing and new markets, as we’re motivated by the ambitious goals set for the upcoming years. So, there’s plenty to look forward to!
To wrap it up, could you share your biggest wish for HotelPartner’s future?
I hope that HotelPartner can continue to build on a contented, loyal, and long-standing team that takes pleasure in working with the hotels and with us.
Dear Rainer, thank you very much for these fascinating insights, and here’s to the next 10 years! Your HotelPartner Team.