REPRESENTATION MASTERS
Catching up with Elke Pfeil & RevPar Marketing
An interview by Yvan Vermeesch

The XO Private Founder, Yvan Vermeesch, sits down for the exclusive interview series with Elke Pfeil, Founder & Director of Revpar Marketing, a unique sales representation covering all European key markets. With more than 25 years experience in the industry and an MBA awarded by the University of Sunderland, Elke’s career includes the role of DoSM for Six Senses Maldives, 6 years working for brands in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and operations titles for iconic hotels such as Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland or Bürgenstock Resort in Switzerland. She is known for leading all sales & marketing actions for Zannier Hotels and her sales representation business Revpar Marketing which she founded in 2011 in Barcelona. True to her German origin, she combines a strong mentality with passion and experience in the industry.

YYou founded Revpar Marketing back in 2011. What motivated you to set-up your own business?

My background is on the hotel side, before setting up Revpar Marketing I spent 15 years working for iconic hotels and international luxury brands in Europe, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean and Asia. I started building my database and network in the mid-90s, so by the time I moved to Barcelona in 2010 I was well connected, beyond just knowing the 10-15 key accounts per market. I believed that with the right set up, strategy, structure and dedicated Sales Managers per market, it was possible to service a larger territory rather than just one market, like it was tradition back then.

My dream was a small exclusive portfolio of high-end hotels, offering them the added value of servicing all of Europe, meaning a more cost-effective solution and easier communication lines. Running my own business also suits my personality. I enjoy the entrepreneurial side of it, to build and design the company and have the freedom to shape it according to my vision. But Revpar Marketing was really born out of the desire to create a new, attractive offering in the Representation business.
Zuri Zanzibar
RevPar Marketing Team
Zannier Hotels Sonop Lodge
The representation business is highly competitive. What makes Revpar Marketing stand out from the crowd? How would you describe its DNA?

First of all, from the beginning, I decided that we would not deviate from our expertise, which is selling luxury hotels. For this reason, we decline collaboration requests from DMCs or cruises. Our portfolio consists exclusively of high-end hotels & resorts and it will always stay that way. Our team is made up of seasoned, experienced Sales professionals, who are empowered to go out into their markets with full responsibility and who are received by decision-makers and management of our travel industry partners. We would never hand off one of our hotel clients to a junior account manager who doesn’t know left from right. But most importantly, as we cover the whole of Europe, we purposely limit the size of our portfolio to a maximum of 12 hotels. This is to ensure that we remain in a position to offer full focus and dedication to each of our hotels. So our growth strategy has always been to focus on the right collection of hotels to represent, instead of building a large portfolio.

Another important aspect of Revpar Marketing is the in-depth cooperation we create with our hotels, where we learn all about their need periods, seasonalities, competitive sets, and commercial strategies in addition to their USPs and story, in order to tailor-make our actions for them and ultimately drive business. Representation can often take shape of generic promotion without a strategy or a systematic approach. If you ask one of our Sales Managers, they will be able to tell you by heart the occupancy levels of our hotels, low seasons, special offers in place, best-selling room types, which room has the best view or what makes each hotel stand out from its competitors. Of course, we have also visited all our hotels personally.

Our hotels get to decide how active a role they would like us to play for them: some hotels prefer us to execute sales under their directive, others give us free rein to pro-actively drive business from our markets -within an allocated budget of course- and measure our effectiveness by results. We are happy to work with both scenarios, leaving the choice to our wonderful hotels. Lastly, we purposely spend less time marketing and promoting ourselves and more time selling our clients. All hotels in our portfolio came to us by recommendation and word of mouth. Having become an official Traveller Made Partner Representation in 2017 has also underlined our standing in the industry.
The RevPar Marketing Team
Zannier Hotels Sonop Lodge
Unlike many others, you don't limit yourself to only one dedicated market. Instead, Revpar Marketing covers the whole of Europe. What was the reasoning behind this decision?

During my experience as DOSM, I learned how costly it can be for a hotel to entertain multiple offices in Europe alone. A hotel would traditionally have a sales representation in the DACH market, in the UK, and in France as the bare minimum, often one in Scandinavia and Spain or Italy in addition. That’s easily a monthly five-digit figure from a hotel’s expense budget, which first needs to be generated back by these offices in room nights in order for this investment to even start having a positive ROI.

My idea was to offer DACH, UK, France, Spain, Scandinavia, and Benelux under one roof. Hotels can choose all of these markets or select their preferred ones à la carte. Our Sales Managers natively speak German, French, English, Spanish and Catalan. In 2011 we were the first company to offer the European markets without outsourcing or subcontracting. Today several rep companies offer a similar business model or a patchwork of markets, but there is always just one original... We will be celebrating our 10th anniversary later this year. Based on the business we generate for our hotels every day from Europe and their satisfaction reflected in long-standing cooperation, I am delighted to say that the idea proved a success. 

Why did you choose the city of Barcelona as your base for the business?

Aside from the fact that it is a wonderful city to live in, with great quality of life and relaxed culture, it is also strategically the ideal location with many flight connections and the airport in close proximity. And if the reader may be wondering how we successfully service the DACH market or the UK from Barcelona, it should be mentioned that the travel cost between Barcelona and the main cities in Europe is not higher than domestic travel. We have also learned how to draft our itineraries in a way that our hotels do not bear any extra cost when we go to the markets on sales calls for them. Daily communication has shifted online in recent times anyway, not only since COVID.

It is possible to hold an engaging sales call, a contract negotiation, or product training on ZOOM, I think since last year March even the loudest anti-online protester would not disagree. That said, a personal meeting will always have a different dynamic than an online meeting, and we dearly miss visiting our partners and catching up in person!

Is there a specific type of property that you specialize in with Revpar Marketing?

We particularly love boutique hotels with a soul and a story. Independent hotels or small brands are the best fit for our business model and setup. However, generally, our services are ideal for any luxury hotel or resort wishing to increase its market share from Europe. We also specialize in pre-opening and launches, having completed many of them in recent years, some on a project basis or fixed sales missions.

Could you share the names of some of the clients you represent today?

Since 2014 we have been representing the beautiful Zannier Hotels. We launched the brands’ endearing Phum Baitang in Europe, followed by 1898 The Post in Belgium, Omaanda & Sonop in Namibia, and in December 2020 Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô in Vietnam. Working closely with Arnaud Zannier, the head office team, and consulting the brand on all its Sales & Marketing initiatives, we enjoy this cooperation tremendously and have been instrumental in launching and positioning this unique brand internationally.

Another one of our wonderful hotels is the much-loved Zuri Zanzibar. We were appointed just before the opening in 2018 and have been representing the resort since then. Our cooperation with Zuri is nothing short of amazing, we have become an extended arm of Andrea and her team in Prague and handle the Europe business with full dedication and responsibility.
"Our Sales Managers natively speak German, French, English, Spanish and Catalan. In 2011 we were the first company to offer the European markets without outsourcing or subcontracting"
Zannier Hotels Omaanda 
Zannier Hotels Phum Baitang
The industry has changed significantly over the years since you started your adventure. Which element, trend, or similar has affected your business most?

I believe the representation business is saturated in Europe. I have seen many new reps setting up in recent years, often without hotel sales experience or a clear concept. This has also affected retainer fees, as reps have started to undercut each other to secure clients. This development makes me sad, as it is not healthy for our line of business. Professionalism, quality, and experience come at a fair price and that’s a basic principle in business, not only hospitality.


Are there some attractive, new opportunities that you're exploring? Where do you see Revpar Marketing five years from now?


In addition to the travel trade sales we currently offer, I am working on an integrated e-Commerce and Revenue Management consultancy, which will allow us to help hotels in optimizing their online distribution. Whilst without doubt travel designers and tour operators will continue to be the most important revenue source for our hotels, I see an opportunity in the online segment, as it is becoming increasingly time-consuming for hotels to manage this area of their business, and outsourcing it is not a widely available option at present.

Offering both offline and online B2B sales will also allow us to align these two segments for our hotels perfectly, thereby avoiding rate disparities or cutting into tour operator margins. Revenue Management is a passion of mine, I am fascinated by the various ways a hotel can maximize its revenues. This is also the reason why I chose the name “Revpar Marketing”, because the concept of RevPAR as a hotel KPI describes the perfect balance of occupancy and ADR, which essentially is what we aim to increase for our hotels.

Tell us about the talent you have hired for Revpar Marketing. Which criteria are relevant to you?

My team is the soul of Revpar Marketing, they made it all possible and I wouldn’t have gotten very far without them. Whilst education and tourism/ hospitality degrees are certainly relevant, I believe personality, attitude, and experience are the most essential traits. Many of the travel trade readers will know our Senior Sales Manager Gemma. Since she joined in 2015, she has cultivated and maintained a consistent rapport with a great number of the most reputable luxury travel agencies and tour operators in Spain, the UK, Scandinavia, and Benelux.

Elisabeth Ferrer, best known in the industry for her Sales roles with Ritz Carlton and Six Senses, is looking after Zannier Hotels for us. Our DACH Sales Manager is, of course, a native German speaker, but also speaks French, so she looks after these two important markets. And our Admin lady coordinates all the paperwork and our agendas. Together we focus on the delivery for our hotels and -most importantly- have fun in the process!


On a personal note, who is Elke Pfeil? What is your background?

I am originally from Dresden and grew up in communist East Germany until the wall came down when I was 12. I vividly remember this time and the effect travel restrictions had on my parents, as well as the lack of international career opportunities they would very much have embraced!

Just imagine an eternal national COVID lockdown and you will understand what that would have felt like. This experience is one of the reasons why I ventured into hospitality and already moved abroad when I was 21 years old. I love different cultures, languages and our diverse and dynamic industry. And whilst I enjoyed almost every role I held in the industry over the course of my career, the most exotic was certainly being DOSM for Six Senses Maldives in 2008/09, based on Soneva Gili (now Gili Lankanfushi) – nothing beats going barefoot to the office!

The luxury travel network is a wonderful arena, and I am beyond grateful for Revpar Marketing to have carved its niche within this glamorous industry. In my personal life, I am an avid runner, having completed two marathons (New York and Berlin), for me running is the perfect way to decompress and get mentally creative. And whilst much of my time is dedicated to Revpar Marketing, my life partner, family, and friends remain the most important anchors in my life.
Elke Pfeil, Founder of RevPar Marketing
Zannier Hotels Bãi San Hô
Yvan Vermeesch
                          
A Belgian by birth, Yvan Vermeesch grew up across Africa before heading to the Caribbean followed by the stunning city of Prague before calling the Mediterranean island of Mallorca home. Always looking to innovate across the board and with a clear penchant for everything experiential in travel, Yvan Vermeesch takes great pride in connecting the finest players in bespoke travel around the globe.
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