Christian Köntopp's story
One thing I have learned in my career is that if you have patience and like to engage with people, the job is almost done. I studied for a long time and earned money in restaurants, and after 10 years my fiancé said to me, ‘you can do anything you like but you have to decide what’.
So at 31, I started an apprenticeship, working in the hospitality business and going to college; I did that for two years in a hotel in the middle of Germany and during that period it was taken over by Accor. I joined Accor as an apprentice in 1999 and I got a lot of support and help – and opportunities because my GM there had the chance to open the first Suite Hotel in Germany. It was a new Accor brand in Hamburg, a nice product with a focus on mid-length stays, and he asked me if I’d like to join him.
We went there in 2002. We had a small team and because it was new, we were in close touch with head office in Paris and we went there every two weeks, so I got the chance to meet a lot of people – that would not have happened had I stayed in the Mercure. I became a GM in 2005 in Hamburg and the Suite Hotel became Novotel Suites; it does not exist anymore. At the beginning, we were just 12 hotels so it was a very upbeat time and we were a fast learning, cosy family. And yes, my fiancé was very happy with my progress!
I have been with Accor almost 25 years and it has never become boring, and that is what I most enjoy about my job. From the Suite Hotel, I changed to Ibis, then Mercure and now Novotel – I have experienced four brands and there are 43 Accor brands left to get to know; there are plenty of opportunities. Accor has made huge changes in the past 10 years and it is exciting to work here.
I started here 12 months ago, we have a renovation coming up and some projects over the next three or four years; I have learned not to plan anything and to see what happens. There are always unexpected opportunities.
At the moment my deputy and I are running the ibis in downtown Munich as an interim measure. As it’s a new property, there is a new team and we have told them that for now we are responsible, so please come to us if you have any problems, we are here five days a week.
The job is always a challenge, interesting and fun, and you can change and move things on and develop people. I arrive with a smile on my face every morning, so I know I am doing the right job.
And from my office, I have a direct view over the runway and can see the planes taking off and landing: it’s great, it’s like TV all day!
Be patient when you join the industry. I am 55 and when I was a new GM I was impatient and wanted things to happen immediately but it is important to onboard people slowly to enable them to make the changes you want; it takes time. You can achieve things in hospitality that you might not have considered before. Have a clear vision and know where you want to go and take your time.
Hospitality is a fascinating job, it’s a great business, there are fantastic products and you deal with people every day – you have to like that but they are great reasons to join. You come into the hotel every morning to see your team, guests, and it changes every day; even if you have six appointments and think your day is done something will still crop up and everything will change. Like today, we had IT problems and I was reassuring everyone the difficulty will be solved.
- Christian Köntopp
- General Manager
- Novotel Munich Airport (Germany)