German hotel chain cozies up to U.S. market

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BERLIN -- Hospitality chain Derag Hotel and Living knows all about the comforts of home, and now it's aiming to attract U.S. travel agents and vacationers to its extended- and short-stay properties across Germany and Austria.

Derag operates 10 hotels in Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Nuremberg and Weimar, Germany, and Vienna.

The chain is expanding, with a property under construction in Bonn and plans for hotels in Dusseldorf and Hamburg, Germany, as well as Amsterdam.

President and CEO Max-Michael Schlereth said the Munich chain is the market leader in Germany's all-suite and apartment-style category.

Derag's portfolio includes four-star hotels designed as "home-like" temporary residences and one luxury, five-star property, the Grand Hotel Russischer Hof in Weimar.

Each property comprises about 30% traditional hotel rooms and 70% extended-stay quarters, but that balance can be altered to meet demand.

While business travelers account for 85% of Derag's clientele, the chain is hoping to lure more leisure visitors with quality service at midscale prices, according to Schlereth.

"We have service that is more or less the same as in [traditional] hotels," he said. "They're like four- or five-star hotels, but you pay rates found in a three-star."

And individual properties go further; for example, the Hotel Koningen Luise in outer Berlin caters to family needs with special children's rooms. Hotel director Bernd Gotz said the kids' rooms are occupied about 10 days per month.

Other properties court businesspeople with laptop rentals and wireless in-room LAN access.

"Each hotel is different, but all bring the advantages of apartment living to the hotel business," said Gotz.

Derag hopes to quadruple bookings from the U.S., Schlereth said. "The U.S. market is going to be very important to us," he said.

The company, which pays 10% to 12% commission, has begun putting out feelers to the travel agency community. It may open a U.S. sales office and has begun negotiations with several tour operators.

For details, call Diana Orban Associates at (973) 605-2330.

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