25 years of CPH Hotels … how it all began

I am Sabine Möller and I founded CPH Hotels 25 years ago.

I grew up in a hotel business. For a child, this was not always particularly fun, but nevertheless exciting. From this came the fascination that laid the foundation for my later career in the hotel industry.

But how did it all come about and why did I want to be self-employed? The dissatisfaction with my bosses – in my case it was two bosses in a row – motivated me…. I was convinced that there was another way. I deliberately don’t say “better” – that’s for others to judge. Besides, I was of the opinion that if I was going to work a lot (and I did so gladly and with conviction), why not for my own company?

Nevertheless – and this is also part of the story… – in retrospect, my understanding for the two ex-bosses is growing. The bottom line is that I am even grateful to them. Because if it hadn’t been for them – I don’t know if I would have made the leap into self-employment so quickly. 

On August 24, 1996, at the trade fair in Cologne, the realization struck me like a bolt of lightning: ‘I’m going to found my own hotel cooperation! The impetus for this came from a rather – to put it diplomatically – exciting event organized by my employer at the time. Already during the fair, my thoughts circled only around this new idea and the following nights were quite short, as I sat at the computer, trying to put my thoughts into words. I sent the resulting concept directly to some colleagues I knew in the industry and asked for comments.

The next step was a joint meeting. Funnily enough, an all-male gathering, with one exception. And it was precisely this colleague who encouraged and spurred me on, quite unlike the gentlemen who were primarily afraid of being held responsible in some way should I fail. Dear colleagues, should you read it – in the follow-up once again a big THANK YOU to this round, you were a great help to me and I have experienced a lot of support from you!!!! Strengthened and encouraged, I dared to quit my secure job – my boss was not amused.

Somehow it’s good that you don’t know everything that’s coming up when you take the plunge into self-employment. The discussions with health insurance and employment office or simply telling your own bank that your salary is not going to continue now… a lot of bureaucracy before the actual goal: finding hotels for the new cooperation. My approach: Inspire hotels for a joint cooperation and make a contract with a condition precedent, which only takes effect if a minimum number of hotels are willing to join. The whole thing with a time frame: The start date was September 1, 1997, which was chosen very deliberately because it gave the hotels a chance to acquire business for the following year. 

And so I sat there at the end of November, with a very concrete plan, but still without any hotels. 

The first step was to gather information about the hotels to see which establishments would even come into question. 

At that time, this was much more challenging than today… because the Internet was still in its infancy. My call to the hotels was always the same – “my name is Lieschen Müller and I am planning a long weekend with my girlfriends. Can you please send me some documents.” It was quite exciting what all I got, or rather good friends whose mailboxes were usually well filled at that stage.

And then it got serious with real phone calls to convince skeptical hoteliers of my concept. Apart from a few exceptions, I was able to have many great and sometimes very moving conversations. It got even better during the visits live and in color – on site with the hoteliers. THANK YOU to all those colleagues who took time for me, who invited me to dinner or even to an overnight stay. I was very happy to accept… as a business start-up, every penny counted and savings – thanks to the spontaneity of my decision – were not available either.

On September 1, 1997, the time had actually come – we went to the start!

In 1997, initially under the brand “City Partner Hotels” with the focus on the city hotel industry. 

Later, we deliberately added two more “C’s” with “Country” and “Conference”. It gave and still gives us the opportunity to integrate hotels into our network that are not located in (major) cities and have different concepts. This allowed us to address additional target groups among customers, partners and guests and to offer a broad range of services. 

Today, we have been successful in the market for 25 years. If someone had told me that in August 1996 – I don’t know if I would have believed it, but I certainly would have wished it! 

In this respect, I am happy, grateful and proud to have made it this far with my team through all the ups and downs – of which there were and are quite a few in our industry. 

We have a lot planned for the next few years, and perhaps there will be another “C” at some point – but that’s another story.