Bodo Sikora – 40 years in the hotel business and still going strong

An interview with the Area Vice President

Bodo Sikora und Angela Merkel, Berlin Mark Hotel | © Bodo Sikora, GCH Hotel Group

Inspiration on a small and on a large scale: from old-school waiters to modern-age female chancellors

It is almost 40 years ago that Bodo Sikora started his training to become a hotel manager at the “Hotel Stadt Berlin”. Nonetheless, he still remains true to his passion, the hotel industry. He has been working for the GCH Hotel Group since its founding year 2004 and currently holds the position as an Area Vice President for the regions North & Berlin.
Sikora still remembers his inspiration to become a hotel specialist: “I was still a pupil when one night I went out for dinner with my parents in the town of Gütersloh. The waiter who attended us radiated an incredible enthusiasm for his occupation. Ever since then, it had been clear to me that if a job is that much fun, it would be what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” Over the years, he has kept this enthusiasm for working in the hotel industry and fondly remembers some emotional highlights: “As soon as I set foot into a hotel, a different world opens up for me. It is right there where I feel good and enjoy my job. Many famous personalities have crossed my path; artists, stars and politicians. One of my favourite memories is about a young and fierce opposition leader: During my time as director of the Berlin Mark Hotel, our large breakfast room was booked by the Berlin CDU party (Christian Democratic Union). Angela Merkel, who back then was the leader of the opposition, was invited as a guest speaker. It was my honour to welcome her and I even had the opportunity to chat with her for a while. Already back then, she was a remarkable woman.”

Connected on all levels: about superiors and colleagues

Bodo Sikora also likes to look back on his mentors and his favourite colleague: “In 1985, I started to work at the Excelsior Hotel Berlin. Horst Lindenbeck was the hotel director and I think I am right to say that he was my mentor. He took me from the Berlin Excelsior Hotel to the Berlin Mark Hotel, where my actual professional development took place. I was also fascinated by Shmuel Mayo, one of our company’s leading figures. Thanks to his strong leadership, we managed to survive the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and to steer the company through the pitfalls. As the director of the Berlin Mark Hotel, I wanted to pass these positive impressions on to my colleagues. Over 20 years ago, I employed Mrs. Schumann-Dimsky as a receptionist at the Berlin Mark Hotel. Her power, engagement and analytical clarity have always impressed me.  She made her way from Reservation Manager to Vice Director and eventually Hotel Director at the Berlin Mark Hotel. Today, Mrs. Schumann-Dimsky is the Area Revenue Manager for the GCH Hotel Group in Berlin and I am extremely proud of everything she has achieved.”

Progress instead of standstill: not only on a technical but also on a human level

In addition to all the fond memories, Bodo Sikora still remembers his beginnings in the hotel industry and all the challenges he has faced over the years: “I belong to the baby-boomer generation of the late 1950s and therefore had over 50 competitors when I applied for the trainee position. The booking system was still called “pencil and rubber”. It was a reservation book where we manually recorded all bookings. Over the years, the book was replaced by an NCR machine with balance control, a Nixdorf 8862, and later by Fidelio and Opera. I still remember the so-called “Whitney Rack” we used to have at the Berlin Mark Hotel in the beginning. It is used to make a manual room-vacancy notification. We still didn’t trust computers and preferred to double-check manually – something hard to imagine today.
The biggest challenge for me personally is to continue to master the new electronic media. And yet there is consistency: Everywhere in the world, the fork is still on the left and the knife on the right.”
Bodo Sikora however turns thoughtful when touching the subject of leadership character: “I do not believe that I was a particularly good hotel director, because I was lacking patience in many aspects. In my opinion, a good hotel director should be very patient. And yet I am proud to still be able to have many colleagues by my side whom I trained; in Leisure Sales, Accountancy or Hotel Management. In general, the most important trait for a hotel director is to be open to people, wherever in the world they may come from, because we also go out into the big wide world to practice our profession.”

Success by trust: Convince your colleagues to win over your guests’ hearts

To conclude, the Area Vice President ventures a look into the future of the GCH Hotel Group in difficult times around the corona pandemic. “Our employees are what matters. If we as a company manage to convince our people that they can trust us as an employer, they will pass on this conviction to the hotel guests. We have to tell them and they have to feel it. This enables them to face even unsettled guests full of self-confidence and build trust.
I know that many people in the company work really, really hard to keep the company on track. The challenges today are bigger than those of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in 2008. The changes and uncertainty will last. I reckon that there will be some who think twice about where they can spend a beautiful and safe holiday. There will be a sustainable increase in the occupation rates in German tourism, for which we should prepare our products.”
When asked about his own future, Sikora says: “I hope to continue to contribute to the company for some more years and that we will become THE leading hotel management company in Europe. I will always be part of the hotel industry – gladly as a colleague for a while longer, but certainly always as a guest.”

Editor: Jan Möller

Translation: Bea Lehofer