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The Big Interview with Kai Schömann

JodyP 28 October 2019
The Big Interview with Kai Schömann

Hotel Republic has had +1 million yearly turnovers for the last 3 years and highest net worth of any other MICE representation company- We chat to Kai Schömann, Managing Director, to find out the secret to their success…

Kai Schömann is one of the smiliest guys you will ever meet and it’s easy to see why when taking a look at the huge success of Hotel Republic. Not only do the hotel representation company represent the most prestigious and demanding hotel groups in Europe and beyond* but every year they confirm more than 10,000,000 euros worth of business in conferences, incentives and events to their hotel clients, including more than 30,000 leisure room nights to their hotels and more than 18,000 Business Travel room nights.

Recognised as one of the top UK Hotel MICE sales representation companies in the UK, Hotel Republic are the only company in Britain to boast nine major hotel and venue groups as clients, oh, and they’re award winning too…scooping a UK Excellence Award from the Trade & Commerce Institute, plus best sales representation for their work with SANA Hotels and Silver award for best use of video marketing at The Meetings Industry Marketing Awards. It’s an impressive collection of accolades.

Owned and run by Kai Schömann, the company has been going strong since 2004 with 10 full-time staff and offices in central London.

We sat down with the man himself who explained in layman’s terms just what a hotel representation company actually does, telling me that the company signs contracts with hotels and venues around the world to act as their UK sales office.

“We become their voice in the UK, we will essentially promote the hotels to tour operators, group organisers and MICE agencies and corporate clients, sometimes business travel clients too. This is much cheaper for a hotel than hiring their own salesperson in the UK and they sign up to a team,” explains Schömann. “We know the market inside out, so they don’t have to learn it from scratch. Then they buy into an existing sales team.”

We ask Schömann about the representation business in general and what makes clients hire the company for the UK Market? “In order to get business from our Leisure and MICE clients we need to do sales calls and knock on doors. That’s how we get business,” he explains.

“We report back to our hotels every month and tell them who we have seen and what potential they have. We have one person in the office who logs every single enquiry and does the follow up on a daily basis. This is very important.”

So, what about targets that the company get?
“It depends on the hotels contract,” he explains. “For our white label sales contract, we sometimes have targets of around 3.4 million per year. (MICE only) For shared representation in general we always deliver at least 10 times their annual investment.”

We then ask Schömann to explain MICE commission to clients and event enquiries. With commission a hot topic on everyone’s lips right now, it’s an important issue.

“It’s definitely so important,” he says. “We know how important commission is for our clients and we will always make sure that our clients get 10 per cent. Sometimes we even try to get them more than that. That’s why our agents need to come via us or copy us in on the enquiry. If they don’t then we can’t help. We must be included from the start.”

This definitely seems like a fair and important point, further clarified as Schömann continues, “We can’t take over enquiries that went direct to the hotel, they will also not count towards our target. Same with event. We need to be copied in. It’s the same situation with all MICE agents,” he adds. “They don’t want their corporate clients to go direct to the hotels or venues. You do always need to CC your account manager, this is the same for Accor, Melia, Marriott, or any representation company. Your UK account manager is your account manager for a reason, use her or him. Why wouldn’t you?”

What kind of confirmation Hotel Republic achieve?
“Last year we confirmed £10.2 million in MICE business. That was our highest MICE turnover ever. The year before we had 9.8 Million. We confirmed a car launch event at our SANA hotel for 1.4 million, that was a nice one.”

But what about the uncertainty in the market, is this affecting things?
“Yes,” Schömann answers. “This year we are down. As we all know there is a huge uncertainty in the market, and we are receiving less enquiries. But we are working hard to confirm as much business as possible. The team is doing a great job. They are out and about on sales calls all the time.”

It seems the answer lies in communication and feedback from MICE agents. “It is so important for our hotels to get some feedback from the MICE agents,” says Schömann. “We need to get a lot of info for our hotels, we need to know who we are in competition with, which other destinations are being considered. What’s the client budget. We need to know so much and sometimes we don’t get this info from the MICE agency. I used to work in a conference office in a busy hotel. It was one of the busiest jobs I ever had. We got 70 enquiries a day… and let me tell you a secret…the enquiries who mentioned one or two destinations were dealt with immediately as we knew we had a much bigger chance of converting them. The enquiries with seven or sometimes eight cities or ‘’anywhere in Europe’’ were always at the bottom of the pile.”

How does Hotel Republic stand out from everyone else when there is such stiff competition in the industry?
“We always try to put some humour and fun into our marketing campaigns and networking events,” Schöman explains, and it’s all about the relationship the company has with MICE agents. As a company Hotel Republic organise numerous networking events. This is where we get creative. We have a photoblog on our Hotel Republic website with lots of examples. I always put myself in the shoes of the MICE client…. if I was a MICE agent would I want to go to a canape reception every week? Probably not. I’d rather do something more fun and learn something.”

But what about how competitive the market is, with MICE clients getting invites to events every single hour of the day, 7 days a week. Schömann laughs and nods in agreement. We all know the nature of the industry and the masses of invites circulating wildly.
“I do a lot of social media research,” he says. “I look into new venues, new things to do in London. I’ve actually just found a lipstick making class and we are doing it in October for our client Port Aventura. We’re renting a studio and our MICE clients (most of them are female anyway) will get to know about their lip colour, and then make their own bespoke lipstick which they can take home of course. And at the same time, we teach them about our amazing venue Port Aventiura and show videos of Ferrari Land and their conference facilities!”

It seems Schömann has struck gold with this idea, with RSVPS flying back ten to the dozen.

“This kind of thing has worked well for us,” he says. “In the past we have taken over several nail studios for manicure events, we did a Paella cooking class and we recreated the Bake-Off tent competition with our MICE clients. That was a definite hit!”

How important fam trips are for his business, because frankly, who doesn’t love a fam?
“These are mega important for us,” he says. “We can showcase our hotel, that’s essential and the client can experience the service. And we get to build a nice relationship with our clients. Seeing really is believing with fams. Once you have tried and tested you can sell it much better.”

And what does he expect from an agency on a fam?
“That they send a person who is selling events, not someone from Accounts,” he answers. “Oh yes it happens…. Believe me. I would also really want them to take notes and Tweet and Instagram during their stay. I also would like them to then brief their colleagues when they come home. There are so many event people in some agencies, I like them to share their pictures and experiences with everyone and put it on the internal database.

Everyone loves a great fam trip story, so what is Schömann’s?
“My favourite fam was in New York, we went to a trapeze school in Brooklyn and we all learned how to use the trapeze. I jumped from one trapeze to another and was caught mid-air by one of the teachers. I have a video to prove it!”

It seems that both Schömann and the company are flying high as we head into the last part of 2019…

For more info on Hotel Republic visit hotelrepublic.com

*Warwick Hotels, Dusit Hotels, ROBINSON, Valnest Hospitality Group, Denihan Hospitality Group, Le Hotels Group, SANA Hotels, Ilunion Hotels in Spain, Bacardi Brand Homes Collection Forte Village Sardinia, Vilnius Grand Resort, PortAventura Conference Centre, , Kimpton Fitzroy London, Hotel Palace Berlin, La Finca Golf Resort, Hotel Puerta America in Madrid and Hotel Metropole Brussels