– follow Robin –
What do you do and how did you get here?
I’m the Chief Marketing Officer for citizenM hotels. I started my career working on Wall Street as a specialist clerk for Vandermolen on the floor of the NYSE. Growing up in a fashion family, I realized that this was not the career path for me so I decided to change direction completely and work at Tommy Hilfiger in NYC. From there I moved back to the Netherlands and worked for the fashion company Mexx, working in their retail division specializing in Men’s buying and eventually I launched a denim collection for the 18-25 year old woman called xx by Mexx Jeans. As I have always had a passion for design and hospitality, I decided to leave Mexx and open one of Amsterdam’s first dining, drinking and dancing venues called Rain. In 2008 I sold Rain after three years of operations and joined the One Star is Born team, which eventually became citizenM.
Was hospitality something that you always wanted to do? What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Having travelled extensively while growing up and staying in a multitude of hotels, from luxurious resorts to eco camps, I always had a passion for travel, design and branding. I did not exactly know what I wanted to be when I was growing up, however I knew it would revolve around a lifestyle business. I therefore studied both international business management and international marketing at University.
Who are you currently admiring in the industry and why?
To be honest I admire a lot of different hospitality concepts and brands in the industry. From a design and development point of view, I really admire Alan Faena; I believe he is truly re-developing an entire community and providing an experience for his guests. Also working together with Studio Job, Foster and partners, and Rem Koolhaas all on one project is truly unique. From the Juan Gatti Murals to the Damien Hirst on display, I was quite impressed.
What’s your greatest inspiration?
My greatest inspiration is definitely travel. Exploring new places, meeting the people, visiting the “non-tourist” attractions is important for me. I would rather find out who serves the best cocktail or where I can find the best local food than visit the regular tourist traps. Traveling also allows me to un-plug digitally (especially in the air), which gives me time to read, think and dream.
Your father is the founder of citizenM. How is it working with your family?
Working with my family is amazing. My father and I have a strong professional relationship when it comes to citizenM. I am also proud to have my younger sister as part of the team, heading up our NYC operations.
Career anecdote you’d like to share?
When we were opening our first hotel at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, I had the entire hotel to myself for a night. My colleague and I figured it would be an amazing idea to spell out the word “hello” using the lights in the rooms and blacking out the others. It literally took us all night to accomplish this, calling on each other’s phones and navigating through the 230 rooms. The next day I was feeling pleased with the result when our technology partner approached me and said “you know we could have simply programmed this in 5 minutes and accomplished the same.” However in retrospect, it was the experience and fun we had which was more important the end result.
There are multitudes of emerging hotel brands. How do you position a hotel, so that it stands out in the market today
I think the most crucial part of positioning a brand; is truly knowing your customer. What does he or she really want from a good hotel and not from a bad one. Only if you understand the lifestyle of your customer can you target and provide an experience that will be admired and enjoyed. My primary job is to stay close to the customer- in our case we call them “mobile citizens” - and take them along step by step in our journey. This lays the foundation of everything that follows. From the hotel design, systems and technology, service and training etc. The next step is to stick to your positioning and not loose your way, staying consistent while remaining flexible to expand on the brand’s values.
What’s your favorite hotel in the world and why?
That’s an impossible question as there are so many. However one of my favorite hotels is Hôtel Costes in Paris. They have perfected an experience, from the music, fragrance, design and service. You feel special when you stay there, it is amazing that a design so classic can feel so mysterious and contemporary. I had the pleasure of staying there last month and it was fantastic!
What do you think is the biggest change in the industry today?
I would say the biggest change in the industry today revolves around the distribution landscape and new innovations within the sharing economy. At citizenM we pride ourselves on thinking ahead and being innovative. We therefore embrace these new dynamics and find smart solutions when faced with a challenge.
What, to you, makes hotel truly unique?
At the end of the day, I believe a hotel will truly set it self apart from others by people. Any brand can hire the best designers and have an amazing restaurant. However the people that interact with you are the ones who make the “magic” happen in my opinion. They can make or break an experience, and are therefore the true guardians of the brand.