Dr. Verena Jaeschke
Director || Oderberger Hotel Berlin || GLS Language Center
“My name is Verena Jaeschke and this is my SMACK story.
With all the challenges that Corona has brought to our industry, I have come to love my job all over again. As a quick introduction: we’re not just the Boutiquehotel Oderberger, but belong to the GLS Language Centre with the GLS Campus. This means, in addition to the pure hotel business, we also have a gastronomy, event and long-stay concept for adult education. With that in mind, it really was a crushing experience to be closed, to no longer see your colleagues and also to no longer see the guests. But in this context, many good things also happened during the months of pandemic that showed me what really is worth fighting for. On the one hand, I am proud that we were able to keep all our amazing regular guests, that we gained new ones and that, as soon as we were allowed to open again, we had a great occupancy rate and a loyal customer base again very quickly. That means so much!
For example, during the lockdown period we had a very sweet couple from whom I received an email saying: “Mrs Jaeschke, we just wanted to tell you that we really appreciate your team, we love being your guests and we have just transferred 250 euros to the hotel account. Please distribute this as a tip to the staff as you see fit.” Just like that! With no cause given! That was really nice. And then, of course, the moment when we opened up again and saw that everyone was coming back. We received emails such as “We got engaged in your house, can we stay in this or that room again?” or “I’m visiting my family again for the first time, so I would love to check in with you again.” Those things make you realize, that as a house you are actually also a part of people’s personal stories and life.
On the other hand, I am also extremely grateful for my team during all this time! For the fact that my colleagues are the way they are, were the way they were during the pandemic and that we all can now concentrate on new things together again. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to get through this lockdown period. We have been very lucky. We were able to keep the majority of our team really constant, that was the best praise for me personally.
It’s this host-gene that we all have, I guess, and you just can’t get that out. It’s also like a contagious virus – once you have it, you can’t get rid of it.
During the pandemic, we communicated a lot internally and externally to keep everyone updated. For the guests, we had a newsletter with different offers and news, for them to still be able to be there during the lockdown period. For example, home office in the hotel, midnight swim, information on film productions in the hotel or video messages from me or individual staff members, through which we thanked the guests for reacting so well to the lockdown and not cancelling their reservations but rebooking them for later times.
For the staff, we also sent out regular newsletters, informed them about updates in the hotel, held meetings outside, if it was possible, organized video calls to chat and exchange information. Especially during the second lockdown, some of the reception and service staff were not at the hotel for 7 months. That’s such a long time! This situation was totally new for all of us! But when everything slowly started again, everything was new and there were many questions. We then did a completely new onboarding with the team, i.e. several days of training, quizzes, introducing new things and answering questions so that everyone knew what the procedures were, how the hygiene concept was to be handled, etc. But because we covered all this, we had a great new start and the guests felt comfortable again right away. These are all just excerpts, but it showed me: “I don’t care if our industry is going through a hard time now. It is my industry. And I want to be right here.”
In addition, this time has also shown me a lot personally. I’ve always admired my mother for her bravery, her resistance to crisis, and I’ve always been afraid of being typical 2nd generation. They always say: the 1st generation are the genius lunatics who simply have an idea, set it up and then see it through to their last breath. Then comes the 2nd generation: they are the keepers, the ones who bring in structure and order – that’s totally important and it’s totally me! But I was always afraid that I wouldn’t have the courage to stick with a crisis until the end. My mother is like a shaggy sea dog, in an absolutely positive sense, who has steered her ship through so many storms. I used to think “Yeah great, when the next storm comes, it will sweep me off the deck”. But honestly – after 2 years of pandemic, that’s exactly how I feel. Like a crisis-resistant, shaggy sea dog. And that’s a great discovery. “