As the lodging sector evolves so do conferences that cover the industry. Last week I attended SAS EUROPE RECHARGE 2018, a two-day serviced apartment, apart-hotel, extended stay and short-term rental business event, held on 23-24 January in Amsterdam.
The event's innovative programme kicked off with a tour of new serviced apartment/co-working concepts in central Amsterdam by canal boat.
Though the weather outside was stormy, we were cosy inside partaking of wine and snacks as we glided along canals from one property to the next.
The first property we visited was the Student Hotel, which, in spite of its name, targets short and long-stay business travellers, as well as students.
In fact, the property offers three different types of accommodation which are physically separated from one another in the building that was formerly a newspaper publishing company.
There is student accommodation which is for long-term rentals, costing about €990/month.
Student rental units have the use of a kitchen which is shared with 12 other rooms.
Another section of the property offers long-stay studios suitable for corporate travellers on secondment.
Yet another area of the building is devoted to rooms for regular transient hotel guests.
The property also features a fitness, co-working facilities and an Olympic-sized pool. The real surprise was to be found in the cellar, where there are scores of bicycles stored – ready to be rented to guests at a cost of €12/day.
Next on our journey was a Sweets hotel, certainly the most unusual of the properties visited.
Sweets hotel consists of a collection of one-unit properties which will eventually be open for guests in 28 different locations, offering a unique way to experience Amsterdam.
Sweets secured the concession to transform all 28 of the city’s canal-side bridge-controller houses into individual hotel rooms.
The one-room structures formerly housed workers who would raise and lower the bridges with the push of a button. However, their task became redundant when the system was digitalised in 2016.
Six of the bridge houses are currently available for reservations with more coming soon.
However, a night in one of the properties doesn't come cheap, with prices starting at €160-€200, depending on the property.
Zoku the venue
The Netherlands and Amsterdam, in particular, has long been a hotbed of new and original lodging formats, as exemplified by CitizenM.
Hans Meyer, an initial creator and founding partner CitizenM, has developed a new concept, Zoku, which opened in May 2016, and served as the principal venue for the conference.
More than a hotel, Zoku is a place to live, work, relax and socialise. The social spaces offer a place to work, share a meal or meet likeminded guests.
The living units offer kitchen facilities and the bed is reached by climbing a small retractable ladder. Some units even have gymnastic rings.
Zoku's client base includes essentially three groups: short-stay hotel guests; long-stay guests who can live and work at the property over a period of weeks or months; and local people who pay a fee to use the common areas of the property.
When Zoku first opened, there was such a demand from locals that management had to limit the number of day members to about 170 who are now selected on the basis of how compatible and complementary they are to the group.
An original conference programme
On day two of the conference, following an early morning bike ride around the city, the conference's plenary session got underway with a group meditation, labelled, “The Big Quiet” Mind Nourishment Session, led by Nicola Cloherty wellness coach. Only five minutes of silence, eyes closed and focusing on positive thoughts was a great way to begin the day.
In terms of format, the conference was structured around audience participation sprinkled with debates and group presentations.
The next item on the agenda was a "Bloody Mary” Round Table Workshop about "The future of cities, the future of real estate". While the Bloody Marys were passed out, the audience split into group and discussed themes, such as: living longer; the death of the car culture; generation rent (will 'buy to rent' eventually replace home ownership?); living large in small spaces; and “Good density”.
One of the more interesting sessions was a staged discussion about the future development of Amsterdam which is clearly suffering from 'overtourism'.
As pointed out by Jan Roersma of Hospitality Support Group, virtually any transient lodging establishment in central Amsterdam can count on filling its beds, such is the lack of available capacity for the ever growing influx of tourists.
In future, according to René van Schie, hotel and leisure director, Metropolitan Region Amsterdam, the aim of city planning is to develop outlying locations in greater Amsterdam, such as Amsterdam Beach, Haarlem or the region to the southeast of the city centre where there are castles and gardens.
The idea is to encourage the development of hotels and other forms of tourist accommodation in these outlying areas that can all be reached rapidly via Amsterdam's efficient public transport network.